Her son died unexpectedly. Today, she's helping to spare other families the same tragedy.
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L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

There is no one that Christy Silva loved more than her son Aidan.

Photo via Christy Silva.

"I thought Aidan was one in a million," she says.  "He was very, very compassionate, considerate, just full of love."


The six-year-old, Silva recalls, gave the best hugs in the world. Being his mom is how she'll identify forever. "I feel like that was a responsibility that cannot be taken away from me."

In 2010, Aidan's parents lived through something that no parent should ever have to even imagine. Their son died with no warning.

Photo via Upworthy.

It was Labor Day Weekend. Aidan had just started first grade. His mother remembers them being in the house together and suddenly noticing that things had gotten strangely quiet — unusual for a home in which a six-year-old is present.

"It just occurred to me that I hadn't heard Aidan in a few minutes," she says. "I looked out in the hallway, and his back was turned to me, he was on his side." Silva reached over to tickle her child, but received no response. Aidan had died. His passing was attributed to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a life-threatening condition. It's the third-leading cause of death in The United States.

Photo via Upworthy.

SCA occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. According to recent research, more than 350,000 adults die of SCA every year. But SCA can affect anyone regardless of heart history.

Tragically, that means that children and teens who have otherwise been deemed healthy may be at risk as well. In fact, SCA is the number one cause of death among high school athletes.

What's most concerning is that while many can recognize the signs of a stroke or heart attack, they may not know what SCA looks like, nor may they know how to help someone who is experiencing it. They also may not realize that the person in distress only has moments to live once SCA begins. However, proper, timely intervention can increase survival chances significantly.

So Silva has dedicated her life to raising awareness around SCA. She's working tirelessly to ensure that it stops claiming lives.

Photo via Upworthy.

"I felt, in losing Aiden, that I had failed him as a mom," Silva says. "I did the only thing that I could — take these awful things that have happened and find that silver lining, and honor him in the way that would honor his sweet, caring spirit."

Today, Silva is the Executive Director of Aidan's Heart, which she and her husband founded in Aidan's memory. Their goal is to teach kids how to recognize the signs of SCA and offer assistance before it's too late.

"We learned from a group that kids are actually more receptive to being taught these skills, because they are not as afraid as adults are to use them," Silva says.

Recognizing that she could make a change and spare families like hers from the tragedy of losing a child made Silva "unstoppable."

She'll always be Aidan's mom first, but now sees herself as a mom to every child in her community. And that means she'll do whatever she can to keep them safe.

Photo via Upworthy.

Since its launch, Aidan's Heart has created a myriad of services to help keep kids alive and healthy. They've installed defibrillators in more than 70 schools. They've trained over 4,000 students in CPR and first-aid.

Most importantly, they've partnered with cardiologists to provide heart health testing for students. To date, Aidan's Heart has make it possible for over 1,800 teens to get cardiological screenings. Approximately 20 serious heart conditions have been diagnosed as a result.

It's no surprise that Silva's received accolades for her life-saving work. In 2018, she was named a L'Oreal Paris Woman of Worth, an honor bestowed upon ten women who have used their passion to effect major change in their communities. Furthermore, she recently learned she's L'Oreal Paris' National Honoree, and has been awarded an additional $25,000 to continue doing her life-changing work.

"I feel like it's Aidan's way of patting me on the back and saying, 'Good job.'"

"Even though things may seem really dismal, you just keep pushing forward," Silva says of her journey. "Knowing that the goal you have is a goal that can be achieved. And with the help of a great team and the love of family of friends, it can be done."

To learn more about  Christy Silva's journey, check out the video below.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Ndakasi and Virunga National Park ranger André Bauma.

Fourteen years ago, Ndakasi the mountain gorilla was found clinging to her dead mother in the Congo after bushmeat hunters wiped out her entire family. This week it was announced that she recently passed away in the arms of Virunga National Park ranger André Bauma, the man who rescued her.

Bauma served as Ndakasi's caretaker since he brought her to the park's Senkwekwe Center, where she was rehabilitated along with another orphaned gorilla named Ndeke. Unable to be safely returned to the wild, Ndakasi lived her life in Virunga, where mountain gorilla conservation is a priority.

The park shared a touching photo and announcement of Ndakasi's passing on Facebook. The gorilla had been suffering from a prolonged illness, and her condition had rapidly deteriorated. A photo shows Bauma sitting on a blanket leaning up against the wall with Ndakasi lying next to him, her head on his chest and her toes gripping his boot.

"Ndakasi took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, André Bauma," reads the post.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!