September 24, 2013 by

Ashley Dubas, 12, is a sixth grader at Beadle Middle School. She has a younger sister, Nicole, whom she is very close to, and a dog named Benny, who’s been her pal since she was 1. While Ashley might sound like your average sixth grader, she is anything but. In fact, she’s a brave and compassionate “Young Hero.”

Born with a congenital heart defect, Ashley has already had two open-heart surgeries and gone through countless rehabilitations and procedures that most adults don’t experience until they’re much older.

“During the course of her last surgery,” says mom Sondra, “she experienced a stroke and had to go through intensive rehabilitation to learn to do everything all over again from sitting, talking, and eating to walking, writing, and playing with her friends. She’s been through a lot.” Nevertheless, Sondra has seen her daughter overcome the struggles of her heart defect with a positive attitude.

Because of that, Sondra was inspired to create a nonprofit organization based in Omaha called Heart Heroes, Inc. Together, Sondra and Ashley have worked with other moms of children with heart defects to provide superhero capes to thousands of children in nine countries and nearly every state in the U.S.

“Ashley proudly wears her cape and has been a spokesperson for the organization by appearing on such TV programs, as KMTV’s The Morning Blend and most recently NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” adds Sondra.

Throughout all of this, Ashley has become a role model for other children, especially those who are also heart kids. “She shows them that, even though they may have special medical needs and go through hard times, they can overcome their obstacles,” says Sondra. “She is an example of willpower and strength.” That’s why Sondra wrote a book called Miracle of Belief: The Story of a Six-Year-Old Heart Hero, detailing Ashley’s stroke and the family’s healing journey (the proceeds of which benefit Heart Heroes, Inc.).

“Ashley has been through more than I could ever imagine a person having to endure. There have been many times that I wished I could have traded places with her, [but] she has inspired me, as her mother, to use her experience to help others.”

For more information about Heart Heroes, Inc., visit heartheroes.org

Do you have a Young Hero in your life? Tell us their story. They might be featured right here on our Young Hero page! Contact Bailey Hemphill at bailey@omahapublications.com.