Motto inspires Naugatuck girl to help others

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Lauren Kropo, 10, of Naugatuck, center, is pictured with Kate and Scott Middlemiss and their daughter, Grace. Kate and Scott Middlemiss founded the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation after their son, Joseph, died from cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the heart muscle. Kropo designed and sold bracelets and magnets to raise money for the foundation. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — “Be brave, be strong” has been a motto of Lauren Kropo since she was in kindergarten. As a student at Cross Street Intermediate School, the 10-year-old used that motto to help other children.

Kropo designed and sold “Be Brave, Be Strong” bracelets and raised $1,000 for the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds research for cardiomyopathy — a disease that affects the heart muscle — and supports families dealing with pediatric cardiac conditions. The foundation also works to raise funds for children at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“I was really nervous going to school in kindergarten, leaving my mom and dad,” Kropo said. “My dad came up with the phrase ‘be brave, be strong’ to help me push through those fears. I used that motto as my inspiration for these bracelets. We all have fears, and children with this disease have a lot of fears, and hopefully this will help them.”

Scott and Kate Middlemiss of Massachusetts founded the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation in honor of their son, Joseph, who died when he was 6 from cardiomyopathy.

Lauren’s mother, Jennifer Kropo, went to college with Scott Middlemiss and worked with him.

“We stayed in touch and when they lost their son they created this foundation to help other children through acts of kindness,” Jennifer Kropo said.

Members of the Union City Little League Storm show off their ‘Be Brave, Be Strong’ bracelets designed by Lauren Kropo, 10, of Naugatuck. Kropo, a member of the team, designed and sold bracelets and magnets to raise money for the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation. –CONTRIBUTED

The foundation sent care packages to 12 runners in the Boston Marathon who represented the organization at the event. The gift bags included a bracelet and magnet Lauren Kropo designed.

She got to meet two of the runners that wore her bracelet during the marathon and was honored last month at a reception in Dracut, Mass. with the foundation’s All You Need is Love Kindness Award.

Over a three-month period Lauren Kropo sold her $3 bracelets and $5 magnets for the foundation. There were some online sales, but the majority of the money raised came from the Naugatuck community.

“I play softball and basketball,” Lauren Kropo said. “It was so great that my entire softball team wore these bracelets in support of this fundraiser.

“I was really surprised to win the Kindness Award. It means so much to me. Just being able to help out and try and make a difference in someone’s life who is going through a tough thing like this.”

For information on the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation, visit jmbigheart.org.