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Survivor & Professional Speaker on Heart Health Advocacy

Pop’s Girl

The following is a blog/letter I wrote to my children about my dad, in honor of Father’s Day:


Dear Lorelei, Evan, and Andreas,

There is so much you need to know about my dad, your Pops. To put it frank, he is simply one of the greatest men you will ever meet.

You already know that he can fix anything, from a broken car, to a torn shoe, to a loose button on a shirt. You already know he can create anything, from constructing drawers into a seemingly useless wall, to building all kinds of furniture to organize our belongings, to developing a basement we can use for anything. You already know he will bend over backwards to help out his family and how much he loves all of us, especially his grandkids.

Basically, you already know that Pops is awesome.

What you might not know about Pops is that he is by far the most unselfish person and hardest worker I have ever met. Pops lost his Dad (your Pépère Gagne) at a young age, and as the oldest boy of 5 children, he took on a lot of responsibility to help provide for his family. All of his childhood, he worked a bunch of different jobs to help his mom support the household. When other kids were still sleeping, he was delivering papers. When other kids were playing, he was working in a laundromat. He worked very hard to not only be a great brother, but to also be a father figure.

Pops met Mem’Nise when they were teenagers, and they fell hopelessly in love (gross, I know, but one day you’ll appreciate a good love story). Still providing for his own family, he took on even more responsibilities in order to start a life for the two of them. As they got married and built their home together, Pops continued to put those he loved first by working hard.

Through the years, everyone I have ever met who knows Pops has the greatest respect for him. He has always been valued for his work ethic, honesty, and integrity, and through the years he moved up the ranks in his profession because of these tremendous qualities he has personally and professionally.

I don’t think Pops ever had the dream job he might have fantasized about as a child. I could imagine him owning a carpentry store or rebuilding old cars…but he followed a path he knew would best support his wife and children at the time. Every decision he made was for us. Nothing was ever about personal indulgence.

Now, I loved my Dad every second of every day, but boy did I love him when we went on vacations. It wasn’t because he was bringing on us an amazing trip, which he did, but it was because that was when I saw my dad the happiest. We would count down the days until we left, talking every night what rides we would go on in Disney World or how nice it would be to sit around the campfire. On those trips, my Dad would be carefree and act like a kid. In retrospect, a lot of these vacations were probably not just about giving his kids what he never had, but it was also the chance just have fun…something he didn’t have the luxury to do a lot in the course of his life. Those are the memories I treasure most.

No one deserved to retire more than Pops, and I have never seen my Dad happier and more himself. I feel like I have gotten to know more about who he truly is during these recent years, more so than ever before. Watching him be a grandfather to the three of you is amazing, and it makes me prouder than ever to call him my father.

So, I hope you recognize all the outstanding qualities about your Pops. He has so much to teach you, so please take in his lessons. I hope that all of you instill in yourselves so many of his characteristics of selflessness, honesty, motivation, and compassion. I can only hope to be the provider, parent, and rock that he has always been to me.

Love, Mom



The Fine Art Of Being A Mom

The following is a blog/letter I wrote to my children about my mom, in honor of Mother’s Day:


Dear Lorelei, Evan and Andreas,

Soon after I was unexpectedly diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition at the age of 17, I opened my college acceptance letter. Opening that envelope was a moment to treasure, affirmation that life would move forward and that I still had so many positive qualities to offer this world, despite no longer being able to achieve my life-long dream of playing Division I soccer.

My mom was so excited for me. She hugged me tightly. “So you’re going to major in Art, right?” she asked.

I remember being startled at her question. I’d thought only a little about what I wanted to spend the next four years studying. Yes, I loved art. I could draw and create for hours on end, and  in retrospect it helped enable me to survive the last few months of pain and confusion at suddenly being told I could no longer perform as an athlete.

My answer was a quick, “No.”

Her face dropped as she questioned why. I went into my rational explanation of how majoring in Art was going to give me a foot forward in any career only if you counted the job of “starving artist.” The conversation reversed the usual situation, with the parent trying to convey that the arts are a practical post-secondary option.

My mom then asked me a simple question. “If you could major in anything you wanted, without worrying about what was to come next, what would it be?”

I closed my eyes and knew, but she sensed my hesitancy.

“Follow your heart,” she said. “The rest will work itself out.”

I entered college as an Art major, and loved every minute of it. During my junior year, my mom called to tell me about a career she had just heard about and she thought I would love: Art Therapy. In speaking to a colleague, she learned about this field in which art was brought into the counseling process. I was sold. It perfectly combined my two big passions, helping children and creating art.

I went on to receive my Master’s Degree in Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling, and I currently work in a high school as a counselor and art therapist helping youth in need. I love my job. It seems the “rest” certainly worked itself out.

I thank my mom for encouraging me to follow my passion. She has helped me understand that it is taking on challenges that make life worth living. I’m sograteful for her love and support. She has shown me the kind of mom I want to be, and as you three grow, I hope to come close to being the rock she continues to be for me.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.


It was very exciting to be featured in a CPR and Kids segment on CNN during Heart Month!  This interview let me share the importance of CPR, my personal experience with a heart condition, and what is important in becoming certified.

(Check my piece out at approximately 2:00)


I’m Back!

It’s been awhile since I’ve been letting everyone know about what I’ve been up to, but the last two years have been so busy and amazing!

I have given an Art Therapy workshop, spoken at a “Personal Success Begins at Home” Conference in Texas, received an Parent Recognition Award in my city, spoken at a huge ICD support group, and so much more! But most importantly, I gave birth to my amazing son, Andreas Hetzler, on June 12, 2012. I look forward to so much more to come!

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It was so exciting to see so many people at the 2nd annual Fall River Children’s Healthy Heart Festival!  We had great entertainment, tons of activities, top of the line prizes, healthy snacks, tremendous local organizations, and more!!  It was great to donate an AED to Camp Welch of the Boys and Girls Club as well.  Thank you all so much for helping to support this event and Fall River’s heart health!

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StyleWeek Providence held an amazing fundraiser featuring heart survivors, including me!  We were each paired with a local designer, and I was lucky to have an old friend, Joe Segal, as my designer.  We had a wonderful time, from the beginning ideas to the final product on the runway.  It was a great experience!!

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Photos courtesy of Mickey Johnson


Another tremendous conference with Parent Heart Watch!

I was very lucky to be able to speak and receive the 2011 Adult Advocacy Champion Award at the conference’s opening dinner, while also hosting a Survivors’  Track throughout the weekend.  It was wonderful to meet other young survivors throughout the country and reunite with so many good friends (all while enjoying the beautiful weather and atmosphere of San Diego!)!



It’s back!  The 2011 Fall River Children’s Healthy Heart Festival is around the corner!

On Saturday, February 12, 2011 the 2nd annual 2011 Fall River Children’s Healthy Heart Festival will be held at CD Recreation on 72 Bank Street, Fall River from 11am – 2pm.  The main focus of this free-admission festival will be educating children and their families about holistic and healthy options for life. The last festival gathered over 400 members of the community and donated 2 Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to local youth-serving organizations, and we look forward to an even bigger event this year!!

There will be a health fair featuring different heart-related and health-related groups, both nationally and locally.  If you know anyone who is interested in having a table at our event, please do not hesitate to contact me. We are still looking for volunteers, $50 Heart of Silver Sponsors & $100 Heart of Gold Sponsors to be recognized at the event, and most importantly…everyone to come!!

Other plans for the day are in the works, but it promises to have fun activities for the kids (and adults!), offer fantastic prizes (including a Wii & iPods!) and healthy food, and overall provide a great educational community experience. I hope you are interested in being there to support our community’s health!

This event is in partnership with the Fall River Fitness Challenge and The Healthy Heart Foundation, Inc.

For more information, please contact me at michaelagagne@comcast.net or 508-567-4944!



Check out Peaceful Coalition’s new website!  I’m proud to help oversee this group as an advisor to the Boys and Girls Groups, as well as the Community Coordinator.  Our youth are doing amazing work, and I’m so excited for the many activities ahead! 



FRYSA Banquet

Another great banquet for Fall River Youth Soccer!  I was honored to sing the anthem and have a wonderful night with the two soccer teams I coach and my fellow Board members.  It was a fantastic night of soccer and fun!



Walk of Beauty Fashion Show Emcee

It took two very motivated, inspiring 8th grade girls to dream up a fashion show that would take on a life of its own…

Khoryn Cote and Elizabeth Kaegael, both 13 years old, were very touched by a video they saw about inclusion and children with disabilities called, “Including Samuel. “  From there, they decided they wanted to put on an event that would make children with and without disabilities feel beautiful inside and out.

I was very proud to emcee such a touching fashion show that included babies through high schoolers, both with and without struggles, who strutted their stuff on the runway.  We all had a blast, and all the proceeds went to charities for children with disabilities. 

Great job, girls!


Today I filmed a clip that will be featured in local American Heart Association intiatives focused on working with students to understand more about their heart health and get involved in the fight against heart disease.  I can’t wait to see what the clip could lead to!


Another fun soccer season has kicked off for FRYSA!  My Under6 Ireland and Under8 England teams are excited about the season ahead, and it promises to be a blast for all of our 600+ Fall Season Recreational players!

For more information about FRYSA, please visit: www.fallriveryouthsoccer.com.


I was so excited to emcee the ROCK the Fight Against CHD Event held at the Venus DeMilo in Swansea, Massachusetts!  It was a fantastic fundraiser with an unbelievable entertainment line-up to raise money for research and support of families with Congenital Heart Defects.  We had a rockin’ night that promises to grow over the years and make a huge difference for so many families!!



I was privileged to present the Peaceful Coalition with a Heroes of Peace Award during Fall River’s National Night Out.  I nominated this amazing group based on their dedication to creating peace within our community and the ways in which they have made great strides toward this goal.  It was a fun evening for all who attended!


I had the pleasure of returning to the Rotary Club of Fall River to give my thanks and share my presentation to them about my trip to Uruguay.  They are an incredible group, and I’m so grateful that I was able to take part in this international experience of creating friendships across the world as a result of my local club’s efforts.  Thank you again, Fall River Rotary, for your continuous support!!


My family had a fantastic time at the annual Freemason Family Fun Day held at the Fall River Grand Lodge.  We enjoyed terrific company, delicious food, and great fun!!


It was an honor to sing the national anthem and attend the local Rotary International’s Million Dollar Brunch.  This event, which began locally, is held all over the world to help end Polio…a goal very much within reach because of R.I.’s efforts.  They are simply one of the most inspiring organizations anyone could ever meet!


Miss Massachusetts 2010 Crowned

Congratulations to our newly crowned Miss Massachusetts 2010, Loren Rabinowitz!  We are proud to have her represent our state at the Miss America in January!!

The Miss Fall River Committee is so proud of our 3 ladies who did unbelievable at the pageant! 

It was a great pageant, and it was wonderful to be able to catch up with my Miss Massachusetts sisters!


Leadership SouthCoast Graduate!

I was very proud to graduate as a member of the 2010 Leadership SouthCoast class today.  I am grateful to this program for its in-depth knowledge of my region, networking opportunities, and additional tools to help contribute as a leader in my area.  It was a great class, and I am very excited where this program will continue to go!