South Mississippi Strong: Harrison County girl’s art is good for the heart

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HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Emma Hartley may have heart disease, but it’s not stopping her dreams. She and her family are lending their talents to support the American Heart Association, and in doing so, she’s not only helping others, but she’s also helping herself.

Emma’s disease is called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. It’s difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to live with. But Emma is fighting back with art and soul, and that’s why we call her South Mississippi Strong.

Emma’s art boards are a proven hit!

Call the 10-year-old the head artist and chief of marketing and sales for these art boards. And she’s good at it. Because, like any successful sales person, she doesn’t sell anything she doesn’t believe in.

But before the sales, comes a lot of work, work she loves to do.

“It’s a fun routine. It’s fun poking the board and drawing it," Emma said. "And spray painting it. It’s fun doing that.”

They all have strong statements of courage and determination just like Emma.

“So, this is the heartbeat," she explained. "This is the cross, and this is the heart. And I personally think the heart stands for love. Through the heart surgery, it’s telling you to be brave. Be strong, be brave, have confidence.”

The family stopped counting the number of boards at 110, but more are coming.

Emma gets assistance from her two younger twin sisters, both of whom also were born with heart defects. Fortunately, they are heart-healthy now.

Emma has had four heart surgeries. Her first one was when she was 12 days old.

“But, it has been challenging," said Emma’s mom Lisa. "It’s very testing having a chronically-ill child.”

And, sometimes, it can get even the normally perky Emma down.

“I want to play softball, something like that, and I can’t," she explained. "Sometimes I just feel sorry for myself.”

But her positive personality is like a magnet for her many friends.

“Most of them like me by my kindness. Some of them like me by just being who I am. Some of them like me because some say I am a very wise and helpful person,” Emma cheerfully explained.

Emma’s step dad, Christopher Northrop, lends a hand by routing her stenciled work and then giving it a good sanding before the final touches.

“It’s something good to finally have a chance to. She wanted to do a good cause, and make a difference for other people, and to say she asked you for help and you were able to do something to be able to help her out instead of just watching and saying well, this is something that you have to do,” Christopher explained.

Emma has taken the torch from her mom, Lisa, who has herself been involved helping American Red Cross among other charities.

“It’s definitely a cause that’s near and dear to us. So, I love that she’s using her creativity, and like I said, finding purpose in the pain,” Lisa said.

If you want to purchase a board of inspiration, just go to the Facebook page Northrop Creations.

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