ELKHART — There’s a lot of love in downtown Elkhart.
It’s lining Main Street, and soon it will be in storefronts, restaurants and along the Riverwalk. The Elkhart General Hospital Foundation began placing the first wave of large heart statues in downtown in the fall, and in just one more month, they will be auctioned off at a Valentine’s Day fundraiser for the hospital’s Center for Cardiac Care.
About 20 large fiberglass hearts standing five feet high and 25 smaller hearts measuring 18 inches tall were designed and painted by artists from the Michiana region.
“Anytime you can use art to help the community, like what the cardiac center is going to do, it’s just a good thing,” said Nancy Wirt, an interior designer and owner of n.wirt design on Main Street who recruited a group of artists for the fundraiser.
Wirt was impressed by the caliber of artists who signed on for the art project and found herself in awe of the finished hearts.
“There are so many great artists in this community, so I feel really fortunate,” she said. “It’s a lot of work. Even the smaller hearts, they’re small, but that’s a lot of work that went into them.”
Not all of the hearts are displayed downtown. One will stay at the hospital, and others will make their way into the city once they are covered with a clear protective coating. The hearts will be exhibited downtown until they are sold at the special fundraiser event Feb. 14 at the Lerner Theatre.
The money raised will help pay for high-tech enhancements that will allow EGH to offer the implantation of ventricular assist devices in Elkhart for the first time. The fundraiser will also benefit HeartReach Michiana, a nonprofit organization started by an EGH doctor in 2004 that buys and distributes portable automated external defibrillators, or AEDs.
Just outside Wirt’s Main Street storefront is a heart titled “Let Your Heart Shine” designed by Katie McCormick, a stay-at-home mom from Elkhart. The vibrantly colored statue is covered in whimsical quotes about the sun and moon and even a lyric from a song that her mother used to sing. McCormick painted the heart in her garage during a humid week in August.
McCormick is excited to be part of the project for EGH, bringing beauty to the community she grew up in.
“It just adds culture,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re in a place that more well-rounded.”
Suzanne Weirick, a co-chair for the EGH fundraiser, agreed.
“It gives us character,” said Weirick, who has been working closely with fellow co-chair Tim Portolese and foundation executive director Jon Housand. “It shows we have passion and creativity.”