Landry celebrates with his dad’s team.

Heroic campaign for young cardiac patient

Ridge Meadows minor ball associations shows its heart

Landry is nine years old and waiting for his fifth heart surgery, coming in September.

He’s brave about it. His mom, Natasha Dawes, puts it in perspective for him.

“I tell him you’re going to get your heart fixed, so you can run as fast as you want.”

As great as his family support is, he’s also got the Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association behind him in a unique way.

Landry is a big baseball fan. His parents, Natasha and Dwayne, both play mixed slo-pitch and on men’s and women’s teams, so he spends many nights down at the ball diamond. He watches the games and loves playing Beyblades on the sidelines.

This season, for the first time, he got to play on his own, in his first season with the new Challenger Baseball program for kids with special needs.

Landry was born with Down Syndrome, and he is small for his age. But he is also athletic. He’s got a strong arm – the ball jumps out of his hand as he throws. He can make solid contact with the bat against a pitched ball, and at first base he takes his leadoff with his legs spread wide and arms hanging loose.

“It’s absolutely fabulous,” Natasha said of the Challenger program.

But about half of children born with DNS have heart defects, and Landry was born with two.

Firstly, most people are born with four heart chambers, but Landry had just one. The single ventricle heart defect led to his first procedure when Landry was just 12 weeks old. He had another at four months and was in the hospital for his first Christmas.

Secondly, he also had atrioventricular septal defects, which restricts his oxygen.

He has had another two surgeries to transplant a valve in his heart, but it doesn’t grow with the rest of his body. Now, as the valve gets too small and restricts his oxygen, he needs a new one.

But Landry loves his life.

“With everything he’s been through, with everyone he meets, he still lights up their day,” said Natasha.

He talks a bit, but is great with sign language, and his buddies at Golden Ears elementary are starting to pick up signing, too.

He loves watching baseball and other sports with his father. Landry is a Blue Jays fan, while Dwayne roots for the Yankees.

And Landry loves the Avengers and superheroes in general, dressing up in his costumes as the Hulk, Thor and Captain America.

“You wouldn’t know he’s had health problems until he takes his shirt off and you can see his battle scars.”

Melissa Nisbet, the special events coordinator for Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball, has rallied support for Landry.

“It would be really great to show Landry big love and support from around the world. Please send him a get well soon/encouragement/good luck card/postcard. Are you good at drawing? Send a picture that Landry can hang up. How about a picture of a superhero or a Beyblade?

“Are you a good photographer? Send a photo that we can post on Landry’s wall. Please share this so Landry can receive lots of mail! You can send mail to Landry in care of me: Landry c/o Melis, 549 Howe St, #600, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, V6C 2C2

Nisbet has some famous family, including her brother-in-law TV actor Taran Killam, who was on Saturday Night Live and the Amanda Show, and is working on a new series Single Parents. He has 278,000 followers on Twitter, and threw his support behind Landry with a tweet:

Nisbet’s sister, and Killam’s wife, is actress Cobie Smulders who plays Commander Maria Hill on the Avengers, so she will be looking for some authentic superhero memorabilia from that source.

Nisbet has also set up an online page to tell Landry’s story.

Superhero pictures will be rolling in.

“He’s going to love it,” said Natasha.

Landry will have his surgery on Sept. 27. He will be in the hospital for about one week. His rehabilitation time at home will take a lot longer, but he should be ready for April’s start of a new ball season.

• For local families, or anyone that wants to help out, the RMMBA is also taking donations toward house cleaning services, gift cards to local restaurants that deliver, grocery store gift cards to support the family. They can be sent to: Attn. Siusan, John Kenney Real Estate Team, Keller Williams Elite Realty, 11728 232B St., Maple Ridge, B.C., V2X 7Z2

Nisbet can be reached at events@rmmba.ca.

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Landry is forced to take time outs, as his heart problems give him shortness of breath. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

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