Community invited to mark Samantha’s First Heart Birthday

By Jessica Johnson

April 6, 2014

A year can go by in a flash, and for Samantha Riggs, that year has meant so much to her and the family, father Tony Riggs shared.

On April 17 last year, Samantha, lovingly referred to as Warrior Princess Sam, was a patient at Duke Children’s Hospital in Durham, receiving her much-needed heart transplant. This year, the family is celebrating the first birthday of her new heart in conjunction with Donate Life Month, and the entire community is invited to join in the celebration.

Samantha’s Heart Birthday Celebration will be held at Riverside Park in Mount Airy on April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be free refreshments and a balloon release at dusk, to honor Samantha and all organ recipients and donor families.

“There are so many in the community who supported us and Samantha, and we just want to say ‘thank you’ with this celebration. There are some out there who we just know by name, and this gives us a chance to meet everyone and share our thanks,” Riggs shared. “We want everyone to come on out and celebrate Donate Life Month which is held in April each year, as well as honor the donor families and recipients with the balloon release at dusk.”

Riggs said this year has been amazing, and the family, including wife Randi and daughter Farrah, have enjoyed life getting back to normal. Even with regular doctor’s appointments to check on Samantha’s new heart, she has enjoyed the past year, Tony said.

Samantha has enjoyed going back to school at St. Paul’s Elementary School in Cana, Va., and is making good grades. She also enjoyed playing basketball and volleyball and is now playing on a soccer team, Riggs said. She has also enjoyed spending time with her friends, family, and her Girl Scout Troop, who helped to paint Samantha’s room with colorful hand prints on the walls before she arrived home last May.

Samantha Riggs spent 140 days at Duke Children’s Hospital last year, hooked up to a Berlin Heart she nicknamed “Bertha.” She then received her new donated heart and spent three weeks in the Ronald McDonald House after receiving the transplant. She arrived home in May of last year to Cana, Virginia, with streets lined with friends, family, and well-wishers.

Donate Life month is celebrated every April throughout the country. According to, anyone can be a potential donor, regardless of age, race, or medical history. There is no cost to the donor or the family for organ or tissue donation. There are more than 121,998 men, women, and children awaiting organ transplants in the United States as of April 3, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Last year, 28,952 patients received organ transplants, with 14,257 individuals donating.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.