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The heart recipient who wanted to sing like Elvis

Published February 4, 2007


"I'm happy because I'm home" Dec. 1, 2001;

THE STORY: Jeannie Bornemann was 14 when she got her new heart. The Palm Harbor teenager, born with congenital heart disease, had spent months in the hospital and missed a year of school. In the operating room, Jeannie listened to music: Elvis Presley. Once she recovered from the transplant, her parents took her to Graceland. Jeannie wanted to be a singer when she grew up. She wanted to record Can't Help Falling in Love.

FROM THE STORY: "I'm happy because I'm home. Last Christmas, we put lights all around my hospital bed 'cause I couldn't leave my room. . . . This is the very best Christmas in the whole, wide world. And I'm not in the hospital."

THE REST OF THE STORY: After learning of Jeannie's wish, the owner of a recording studio called and offered to let her make a CD. She sang her favorite song, of course. And Unchained Melody. Three years later, Jeannie's new heart gave out. She needed another transplant. It never came. She died on April 19, 2004. She would have turned 21 this week.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Jeannie's parents prayed for two years, "Now what do we do?" How do you go on after losing a child? Finally, they decided to help other children like Jeannie.

They formed a foundation: Heart for the Arts. They want to raise money to send sick children to plays, art shows and museums. Their first event is a festival and concert Feb. 17. It includes an afternoon of dance lessons, tile painting, yoga, pottery, drumming, recording CDs, and hot air balloon rides - all free to the public, starting at 3 p.m.

At 7:30, the '60s band the Vogues will perform. Tickets to the concert are $15. All events will be held at the Suncoast Cathedral in St. Petersburg, 2300 62nd Ave. N. For more information, call (727) 741-2798.

Jeannie's mom, Barbara Bornemann, said planning the festival has helped her heal. "Maybe her spirit can put a song in some other child's heart."


[Last modified February 3, 2007, 20:03:31]

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