For Emily Warren, birthdays mean more than just the passing of another year — they also mark the opportunity to appreciate each year by giving back to her community and to organizations that have had an impact on her life.
Every year since she turned 13, Warren has foregone personal presents and instead used her birthday as a way to collect gift cards or supplies for various groups.
Thus far, she has donated to organizations such as Wolfson Children’s Hospital, her local humane society, Camp Boggy Creek and Art With a Heart.
And on July 10, the 20-year-old Jacksonville native delivered more than $400 in gift cards to social worker Kathryn Ward to help patients and families in the UF Health Pediatric Heart Transplant Program in Gainesville.
After all, this program is close to her heart — she was airlifted to UF Health at birth in 1994 and also received a heart transplant at the hospital three years ago.
“They make me feel safe,” Warren said of the physicians, nurses and staff members, whom she has known for years. “They’re like my family.”
To show her appreciation for the care she’s received and to pay it forward, Warren put together a gift bag with various gifts, including cards to gas stations, nearby restaurants and CVS, as well as a “get well” message for each recipient.
Emily’s mother, Catherine Warren, could not be more proud of her daughter — or more thankful for her second chance.
“Life is good with a healthy heart,” Catherine Warren said.