MOUNT VERNON -- While senior projects at Mount Vernon High School frequently make community connections, Samantha Anderson made sure hers had a personal meaning as well.

Anderson, who had a heart condition as a young child, used her senior platform to hold a color run in the fall and raise more than $3,000 for the Pediatric Cardiology branch at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls.

“I had a seizure when I was two and I was sent over to Sanford to run some tests,” Anderson said. “That is when we found that I had a bicuspid aortic valve disease. So, after learning about it, I wanted to give back to them for helping me find this condition and being able to help me learn how to live with my condition.”

Seniors at Mount Vernon use senior projects that act as semester tests for their final school year. Anderson started out by organizing a 5K color run where her parents Gena and Craig Anderson helped organize and spread the word throughout the community. Family friends Marissa and Jeff Lee were supportive of Anderson and helped throw colored paint at the color run.

During the event on Oct. 26, Anderson made money by selling shirts and the donations that people made. Anderson also held an auction, selling items which Anderson’s sister and brother-in-law, Kayonnie and Brandon Kitto, constructed and donated. In total, 30 people participated in the color run.

In the end, Anderson raised $3,005 and personally donated it to Dr. William Waltz, a specialist in pediatrics at Sanford. She called Waltz her mentor, and he was the doctor that helped diagnose Anderson with her condition.

Waltz and Anderson made the decision to give the money to the Child’s Life program at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, which is a program that helps children and families cope with the emotional stress and uncertainty of illness. The program can create a care plan specific to each child, help children understand a diagnosis and organize special events and activities.

“For a senior project, you want to find something you either don’t know a lot about, or something you have a personal connection to,” Anderson said. “I have the tendency to forget about my condition most of the time. It is a little unnerving when I get my yearly check up, but I just have to focus on working towards my goals and finishing school.”

Anderson plans to attend Mitchell Technical Institute in the fall and has been accepted to their medical assistant program.

The project will come to a close in April, when Anderson presents her project to a panel of judges and displays what she accomplished and learned.

“I learned a lot of patience, a lot of my own emotions, and a lot about my own condition. People really do care when they see someone young advocating for something that matters to them,” Anderson said, “I want to continue to bring more awareness to my condition even after I graduate and in my future career as a medical assistant.”