CRANBERRY TWP — Elexa White of Cranberry Township is one of 36,000 children born each year in the United States with a heart defect. The 12-year-old sixth-grader at Evans City Middle School is now working to help save future babies from heart disease and stroke by being selected as this year’s Open Your Heart spokesman for the 2013 American Heart Association’s Beaver Butler Counties Heart Ball. The Heart Ball is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Marriott Pittsburgh North off Route 228 at 100 Cranberry Woods Drive. Elexa in her spokesman role will share her story of recovery and make a donation appeal to the more than 400 people expected at the “Dancing with the Docs 2”- themed event. Barbara Roth, Beaver Butler division director for the American Heart Association, said the Heart Ball has raised more than $935,000 in the past six years. The event was sold out last year and is close to selling out again this year. “I’m really excited to tell them my story. It’s really going to be fun,” said Elexa. “It’s (the Heart Ball) going to help a lot of people.” Elexa’s mother, Kirstin White, explained her daughter attends Heart Camp through Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and one of the counselors had recommended Elexa to become the spokesman. “She’s never been shy about telling others about her open heart surgery,” said White. Elexa previously talked with her fellow students about her surgery. Elexa was born June 3, 2000, to Rich and Kirstin White. Two months after her birth, she was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect. This means she was born with a hole between her two ventricles, causing her oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to blend. It is estimated that 42 out of every 10,000 babies born have a ventricular septal defect and a total of about 36,000 babies are born every year with some type of heart defect. At four months, she had a successful open heart surgery. Elexa continues to grow and lead a normal life with her only restrictions being no marathon running or power lifting. She currently plays soccer and is taking an interest in theater. “Never, ever be ashamed of your heart issue,” said Elexa. “Your scars are part of you. Don’t feel like you have to hide them. Let them show and be proud.” The Heart Ball is a nationwide event that celebrates the group’s mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. “The Heart Ball is the American Heart Association’s most prestigious annual fundraising event,” said Karen Colbert, director of communications for the American Heart Association. “The event is much more than an elegant black-tie affair. Proceeds from the ball are used to support cardiovascular research, professional and public education, school site programs and advocacy efforts throughout the year.” Colbert said the AHA is second only to the federal government in funding cardiovascular and stroke research. Colbert said the AHA’s research programs have contributed to many important scientific advances, including the first artificial heart valve, techniques and standards for CPR, implantable pacemakers, treatment for infant respiratory distress syndrome and cholesterol inhibitors. “Research and medical advances funded by the American Heart Association help survivors like Elexa thrive,” said Colbert. Roth said if people are interested in attending, register as soon as possible online at: www.heart.org/beaverbutlerpaheartball. For more information, contact Roth at 724-453-1004 or e-mail email@example.com.