9-year-old boy from Derby gives back after heart surgery

NEW HAVEN — A 9-year-old from Derby recently brought big smiles to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and pediatric heart patients.

Jayden Cooper did this with his donation of 36 teddy bears to the hospital, according to a release.

Jayden, a “proud New York Yankee fan and admirer of outfielder Aaron Judge,” was familiar with the children’s hospital because he had heart surgery there in 2017 to repair a type of congenital heart defect, the release said.

Jayden received a special teddy bear from the children’s hospital care team and that inspired his gift. Jayden asked family and friends, in lieu of gifts for his ninth birthday, if they “would consider donating money so he could buy teddy bears for other kids who would be having heart surgery,” the release said. Jayden received nearly $700 and bought 26 bears. Further donations allowed the purchase of 10 more bears.

Each of the bears has a pouch and when it is unzipped, there is a red embroidered heart inside and a note from Jayden that says: “My name is Jayden and I am 9 years old. I had open heart surgery just like you! My motto is ‘If I can get through open heart surgery, I can get through anything!’ I love my Bummer Bear (I named him Zippy) and I wanted to do something special for other kids who were going through the same thing. I hope you like your bear! Get well soon! Jayden,” the release said.

“Jayden has been an inspiration to us all,” said Dr. Alan Friedman, Jayden’s pediatric cardiologist at YNHCH, also in the release. “It is not just for this generous and selfless gift however. This is a reflection on the terrific person he is each and every day.

“All of us at the YNHCH Heart Center get up each morning with the goal of helping kids live healthier and better lives. Jayden reminds us all how children can accomplish great things,” Friedman said.

Jayden’s parents, Bethany and Charlie Seefeldt, delivered 36 bears to YNHCH this month. The couple noted that in addition to being a special blessing and the light of their lives, their son never ceases to amaze them with his kindness.

“Jayden asked if others would open their heart, if you will, and help make the lives of hospitalized children having heart surgery better,” Bethany Seefeldt said, in the release.

Jayden, a fourth-grader at Bradley School, “is doing great according to both parents and is excited to get back to playing Little League Baseball in Derby this spring.”

“As I had the pleasure of meeting Jayden and his parents at the time of his surgery, I had the honor of gifting Jayden a Mended Heart Bear, a bear effort originated by a generous family enrolled in the study six years ago, with the intent of acknowledging Congenital Heart Awareness Week,” said Nancy Cross, a research coordinator for the congenital heart disease genes study at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, in the release. “It was evident how truly special Jayden is as when I brought the bear to him while he was recovering from his surgery and he suggested I save the bear to give to another child.

“What a remarkable young man,” she said.