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Ani’s Big Heart

Being born with heart problems can often lead to life-long issues, but the heart wants what it wants, and Ani’s wants to climb! Check out her story.

Ani climbing with instructor

In 2019, we will be highlighting what makes Brooklyn Boulders’ Youth programming so special—straight from the mouths of the kids, instructors, parents, and partners. We want to spotlight our kids who crush, make us laugh, and teach us something new every day; our instructors whose rich backgrounds and enthusiastic personalities make BKB feel like a second home; and local partners that actively increase the depth and vibrancy of our youth programming.

This month, because February is already filled with big hearts and bigger love, we are proud to spotlight Ani, one of our young climbers whose heart is a little extra special.

Ani's Heart

It starts with the heart

Ani was born November 17, 2010. Just a few minutes after birth, she was rushed to the NICU due to an airway obstruction and low birth weight. She was soon diagnosed with a Ring-Sling Complex: a rare developmental anomaly involving the lungs and heart. She needed open heart surgery, but first she had to weigh at least 10 pounds (she weighed 5.4 pounds at birth).

On May 16, 2011, one day shy of her half birthday, Ani was finally big and strong enough to undergo an eight hour open heart surgery to repair her “ring-sling.” She was put on a bypass machine and her pulmonary artery was detached, unslung, and reattached in the proper place. Then her tracheal rings were cut and her trachea was spliced back together (so it is short and fat now, rather than long and narrow). Soon Ani began to recover.

Living a full and hearty life

Good news: Ani is doing great now! Every year Ani returns to Lurie for her cardiology check-up and each year her parents are asked if she has trouble keeping up with the other kids. Their answer is always the same: apart from her now much faded scar, you would never know Ani ever had open heart surgery. She has always been an energetic and strong kid—but climbing has focused her energy and distilled her strength into something even greater.

Ani at the heart doctor

Home (and BKB) is where the heart is

Ani is very open and outgoing, and those qualities have been nurtured and supported during her adventures at Brooklyn Boulders. She has greatly enjoyed making friends at Kids Academy and Adventure Days, where she prefers the team building activities we play (she also gets excited about sequencing a route in her head before climbing or conquering new parts of the wall she finds challenging). The instructors at Brooklyn Boulders have all become a proud part of her collection of positive people, which is incredibly empowering for a child and extra encouraging for the parents.


Ani first came to Brooklyn Boulders for her sixth birthday party and, over the past two years, she made her way through countless Kids Academy sessions, Adventure Day camps and now she is a member of our BKBeast 101 team. Every day Ani reminds us what it means to have fun, do your best, and explore the power of human potential.

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