A heart-to-heart connection built on partnership

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Sherri Yukel and her Wisconsin-based company, Big Dot of Happiness, know how to party. The CEO, founder, and mom of four has built a thriving business providing unique, high-quality party supplies to help customers celebrate in style. “We can make anyone a party-throwing hero and create ‘goose bump moments’ for them,” Sherri said.

For 9 years, selling on Amazon has been key to Big Dot’s growth and success, providing Sherri and her team with a way to reach millions of customers, build the company’s brand, and effectively launch new products. For several years, she and her team counted on their account manager at Amazon, Sonja, for strategic guidance about selling on Amazon and how to make the most of the tools and services continually rolled out to sellers. Sherri and Sonja became friends.

In early 2020, Sonja shared some startling news with Sherri. Sonja’s daughter, Charlotte, was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent surgery for a homograft, or a tissue graft, two days after birth. Congenital heart defects (CHD) are the most common birth defect, randomly affecting approximately 1 in 100 babies. They are also the leading cause of birth defect-related mortality.

The following months were harrowing for Sonja and her husband, Aaron, as well as their friends and family. One notion that helped provide hope was Charlotte’s “Heartiversary,” the anniversary marking a year after her cardiac surgery. A Heartiversary recognizes that another year has passed since a “heart warrior” like Charlotte was given a second chance to live.

“The idea of a Heartiversary was not even on my radar until we learned about it from other parents,” Sonja said. “There are so many points before and after surgery when we hold our breath, so having that positive milestone to look forward to is powerful.”

When Sherri learned about Heartiversaries, she was inspired to create a new initiative at Big Dot of Happiness.

“We’ve been in business for over two decades celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, and more, but the Heartiversary has special meaning,” said Sherri. “After speaking with Sonja, it became very clear that Heartiversaries are a milestone many people around the world celebrate, yet they are not a commercially recognized day. We’re going to change that—these heart warriors are so brave.”

On April 2, 2021, Charlotte celebrated her first Heartiversary in a big way, thanks to Big Dot of Happiness. The company’s new Heartiversary Collection includes photo booth props, banners, cutouts, drink coasters, yard signs, the signature Big Dot of Happiness Jumborific Card, and more. Proceeds from the collection’s sales go to The Children’s Heart Foundation, which funds Congenital Heart Defect research.

Party decorations for a "heartiversary" party.

“Charlotte’s Heartiversary is a day to honor her and celebrate the heroes who made her life possible. We are incredibly grateful to Sherri and the Big Dot team for their quick response to help families like mine celebrate Heartiversaries, and to bring awareness and support for CHD research,” said Sonja.

“Funded research is making a very big difference in the lives of congenital heart defect patients, helping to reduce incidences and increase survival, longevity, and quality of life,” she said. “Until medicine and science can improve, Charlotte will need surgeries throughout her life.”

To further celebrate Charlotte’s Heartiversary and help reduce blood shortages, Sonja and her family ran a virtual blood drive with Bloodworks Northwest. Big Dot of Happiness also ran a blood drive with the help of the American Red Cross. Combined, their efforts will help more than 200 individuals.

“Over 22 individuals were first-time blood donors, and our families and friends have begun prioritizing blood donation every 56 days,” said Sonja.

Sherri added: “As a mother and a business owner, it warms my heart to support Sonja, Charlotte, and her family, as well as the many other families coping with challenges like this.”

To donate blood or host a blood drive, please contact your local blood bank. And to register to be an Organ Donor, please visit Donate Life America.

According to Donate Life America, pediatric transplants differ from other organ donations because organ size is critical to a successful pediatric transplant. Children often respond better to child-sized organs. Currently, there are about 1,900 children under age 18 waiting for an organ—and more than 25% are under 5 years old, according to the organization.

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