WELLS, Maine (Beth McEvoy) — Many Mainers grow up in small towns and often leave.But if they are among the lucky, their community never really, leaves them.
Erica Shultz grew up in the small coastal town of Wells but now lives in Massachusetts. She couldn't know so many years ago that her hometown would one day rally together to support her family.
When Erica was 18 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound showed that her baby had two grave conditions - critical aortic stenosis and evolving hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
Ari would become the first person to undergo two successful heart surgeries before he was even born.
In all he has had about 20 surgeries in his short five years on earth.
After Ari spent 211 days in Boston Children’s Hospital for congestive heart failure, his father and mother shared some exciting news with him in March...doctor's had found him a heart.
Ari’s little body is now battling a rejection of his new heart.
Erica and her husband have a blog "Echo of Hope" where they share updates of Ari.
Just 70 miles away, Erica's hometown is organizing fundraisers to help support Ari and even build him a new home.
Around the time Ari received his new heart, his parents got some other news that hit hard: their home was infested with toxic mold. It will have to be completely rebuilt and insurance won’t pay for it.”
Ari’s grandparents, Marvin and Linda Stritch still live in Wells. They say even though Erica and her family live in Stowe, their hearts are in Wells.
Linda says the outpouring of love from her community for her daughter has been humbling. She says the support has taken away some of the burden and pressure from their family.
Abby Moody went to school with Erica and helped organize a fundraiser for the family in May.
“Whether you live here or not we are always going to support community members and it doesn’t matter if you live across the country or down the road," says Moody.
Saturday, May 6 there will be another fundraising event at Congdon’s donut shop in Wells at 5 p.m.
Sometimes growing up in a small town brings rewards one never could have imagined.
As Ari’s story is being shared across the nation, Erica and her husband decided to use their moment of fame to ask people to become organ donors. The Schultz are trying to get 100,000 people to sign up as organ donors. Click here to become an organ donor and see their campaign.