Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Couple makes hearts to warm the heart


January 12, 2018

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

Cassandra Gormley poses for a photograph holding a smiling heart. The idea of making smiling hearts is actually the idea of her husband, Jon, who thought of it after his mother, Patty Purkett, talked about patients having a bad day and he thought the hearts would cheer people up. The heart pictured was designed after the Betty Boop cartoon because Jon's mother loves the cartoon.

A Havre couple are using their artistic skills and a Facebook page to bring joy to people in the form of wooden smiling hearts,

Jon and Cassandra Gormley have created The Smiling Heart, a weekly contest where people submit the name or story of someone who either is facing a personal hardship or goes out of their way to help others.

The winner receives an 8-by-8-inch heart on a small wooden stand decorated specifically for the recipient.

Jon, a machinist, cuts the hearts from recycled plywood, while his wife, Cassandra, decorates them. A picture is then taken of the heart before they are either mailed or hand delivered to the recipient,

The hearts are made and delivered and the cost is not passed on to the nominee or the person who nominated them.

Cassandra, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, liver issues and osteoporosis, said the smiling heart was started as a way to spread love and counter what she said is so much hatred in the world.

Jon started making the hearts one day, when his mother, Patty Puckett, a care taker, was having a bad day because some of her patients were undergoing chemotherapy.

He also made her a heart which Cassandra painted in the theme of the cartoon character Betty Boop, of which Jon's mother is a fan.

Jon's sister from Colorado also received a heart when she came to take care of their farm after their father died.

He then made a smiling heart for a mother whose recovering alcoholic son recently relapsed, and Cassandra said that is how the contest started.

Nominees have included cancer patients, a baby born prematurely, a foster mother of children with special needs who took in additional children despite battling cancer.

The identities of people who nominate the eventual winners are kept secret.

The anonymity, Cassandra said, is so no matter who they encounter, the recipient thinks maybe that person nominated them for the heart and cares about them.

"So they look at everyone as their guardian angel and not just one person," Cassandra said.

So far, she said, they have presented 21 hearts to people from Colorado, Chinook, Hamilton, Great Falls, Malta, Helena and Havre.

Hearts are decorated based on either the situation the winner is facing or things they are interested in. All hearts, however, feature a smiling face.

A heart Cassandra is working on has multi-colored puzzle pieces, the universal symbol for autism. Other hearts for cancer patients have had pink ribbons painted on them.

When Steven J. Mulonet of Chinook, 17, a Chinook High School student with a rare disease called Wolff Parkinson's White Syndrome recently underwent heart surgery, she decorated a heart that featured the school colors of black and orange.

The heart was a challenge, Cassandra said, because it included symbols of all the clubs the teen is involved in such as band, chorus, speech and debate, swimming and football.

"I put everything on there," she said. "That was a lot of work, all these sports that were put on his heart."

If in a given week no nominations are sent, they will choose a name that was submitted from a previous week, but was not chosen to receive a heart.

"So it's like everyone will eventually get one," she said.

Most of the recipients are people she and her husband don't know, Cassandra said.

She said people don't get preferential treatment based on age or condition. The eventual nomination is decided on a story that touches her.

Names and stories of nominees are sometimes, but rarely, submitted by spouses, family or friends. She said Mulonet's story was brought to her attention by a someone from Malta who had heard about his story from a friend.

Another woman was nominated by four people from different parts of Montana.

Eventually, the Gormleys want to pick winners from farther away, but for now, because of the cost of mailing the hearts they usually pick winners who are in Montana.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

Jon Gormley explains the process of cutting and shaping smiling hearts from different sources of wood as he works on a heart. All of the wood used to make the hearts comes from wood that has been used for something else. The hearts themselves are cut from the large piece under Jon's arm while the base and stand come from pallets.

Cassandra said making the hearts lifts the spirits of the recipients but also makes her feel better. She said the painting helps her rheumatoid arthritis and prevents her fingers from seizing up.

The activity also touches her emotionally, Cassandra said.

If the heart's winner is within a 20-mile radius of Havre it will usually be delivered by Cassandra or Jon.

Cassandra said she will often show up at the winner's house unannounced and reactions vary.

Some people give her a quick thanks and accept the heart, but, she said, others are genuinely interested who nominated them and the idea behind it.

"For me to walk up to someone's house, knock on the door and tell them congratulations, and they are not expecting it and to see the look on their face, that is so warming to see," she said.

People can nominate someone for a heart by sending Jon and Cassandra a message on the Smiling Heart Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ASmilingHeart4You with the name, address and story of a nominee.

Though they do not seek money, Cassandra said, they are willing to accept plywood, paint and other supplies.


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