The Twelfth Annual Stronghearts Winter Sports & Fun Day

By Susan Gardner

Nino, a student at Beatrice Rafferty Elementary, who's heart is as big as his smile, enjoys sliding among the Stronghearts ice sculptures during the Twelfth Annual Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day. (Photo by Susan Gardner)

The highly anticipated Twelfth Annual Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day was held Saturday, February 15th at the Pottle Tree Farm in Perry.  Families enjoyed cross-country ski racing, snowshoeing among the open trails, sledding, a scavenger hunt, downhill skiing, hiking among the evergreens dressed in newly fallen snow, a fireside potluck and celebrating the importance of heart health.  Winning medals were awarded to adults and children alike for participating in the cross-country skiing adventures.  Author, Ellen Bryan Obed read her book, 12 Kinds of Ice, to the children fireside, around the outdoor picnic area. Mother Nature contributed by providing a wonderfully sunny winter day perfect for honing favorite winter sport activities.  The Outdoor Adventure Center at WCCC provided all of the winter sport equipment that was available free of charge to everyone attending. 

Proceeds from this winter sports fun day benefit Stronghearts, a Perry based foundation established to support families caring for children with congenital heart defects.  Stronghearts was established in remembrance of Seamus Duffy, a strong little boy who lost his battle with a congenital heart defect and also in memory of James Pottle, a steward of the land that generously shared his dream and hard work through preparing outdoor classrooms, clearing miles of trails, maintaining and harvesting his apple grove, and inviting anyone to enjoy this beautiful space adjacent to Boyden’s Lake with all season sports including swimming, fishing, hiking, tree identification, seminars and of course winter sports. 

This was Mr. Pottle’s pleasure and pride to generously share with his wife Sandra their tree farm with the community.  Sandra lost her husband, much loved James Pottle, to a sudden heart attack in 2005. Today the entire Pottle family carry on this wonderful tradition of inviting anyone called to commune with nature to their most amazing tree farm. For those that have never walked a blessed Labyrinth among blooming lavender, or watched bumble bees at work among the wildflowers, or listened to a stream busily rushing by, or jumped off a wooden bridge into Boyden Lake Stream, then I highly recommend sharing in the appreciation for the Pottle Tree farm through their planned activities.         

Sandra Pottle, relished in watching the clear delight and happiness in the children eyes, as well as the clear appreciation all shared for having the opportunity to explore the amazing outdoor wonderland Pottle’s Tree Farm offers all visitors.  This event is very meaningful and held close in the hearts of residents of Perry, as well as the community at large. People traveled as far away as mid-Maine to share in the days unique outdoor activities. Sandra shared, “This is our big event of the year we look so forward to hosting, not only because of the fun everyone is having but also for the importance of sharing with children and families alike the importance of heart awareness and heart health.” 

If you happened to miss this year’s wonderful Stronghearts event, mark your calendar now for next year. It’s a must experience winter sports fun day. If you wish to make a donation to help families caring for children diagnosed with congenital heart defects, please visit Your help will be greatly appreciated and help heal the hearts of all families coping with a child brave and growing again strong.