On Saturday, Kyleigh Massingill, 2, opened her eyes wide as she was lifted to see the birthday cake waiting for her on a kitchen counter.

In typical 2-year-old fashion, she squealed “Hello Kitty!” and tried to stick her finger right into the edible white cat character sitting on top. 

However, Kyleigh is not a typical 2-year-old, which is why her family had a lot to celebrate this weekend. Not only had she reached the milestone of her second birthday, she has survived two years after being born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome. 

Without seeing the pale scar on her chest, most wouldn’t be able to guess that at only 4 days old, Kyleigh had undergone major heart surgery, and has since been through another, along with countless doctor visits.

As her family listened to music while decorating for the party, Kyleigh danced through the house (her favorite pastime, said her mother, Britney Russell). Occasionally, Kyleigh stopped to stare at the cake waiting for her party on the kitchen counter. 

Favors, streamers and balloons all matched the cake, the centerpiece of the party, because it was provided by Icing Smiles, a nonprofit organization that provides custom cakes for families impacted by the critical illness of a child.  

“This is something we can remember forever,” Kyleigh’s mother said. “We are just so thankful there are people who do things like this to make other people feel better. You just don’t feel so alone knowing someone wants to help out. Everybody coming is so excited to see the cake, so it’s been fun for us. I can’t wait to cut it open.”

The pink, yellow and white “Hello Kitty” cake was created by cake maker Heather Fussell. It was her first time baking for Icing Smiles. 

“I like to give back whenever I can, but I just didn’t realize that the cake-making part of my life was how I would be doing it,” Fussell said. “My cake is helping make memories for people who can use some more good ones.”

Britney said that Kyleigh’s next surgery will hopefully be her last. It is scheduled for April in Michigan.

“They can’t make her like new again, but they can make her heart work like she needs it to,” she said. “So we are hoping.”


Reach Machaela Ballard at mballard@richmondregister.com or at 624-6623.

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