SPRINGDALE (KFSM) - On Thursday (Feb. 12), Sonora Middle School held an assembly to honor a young boy who had heart surgery last year, after he was diagnosed with congenital heart disease.
Ryder Roark is a preschooler in Fayetteville, and Thursday morning, with the support of his twin brother Rowe, Ryder told the students and faculty about his journey.
"First I shared my story," the 5-year-old said.
Ryder's story began in February of 2014, when he had heart surgery after doctor's realized he had a congenital heart defect. Sonora Middle School principal and family friend Shawn Lyons said the boy was in shock at the response from the students.
"'It was a bit surreal, from the sense that you have 815 students, all eyes on him, and 60 staff members, thinking what is he going to do, and then he's clinging to the back of my leg, and I'm thinking 'oh his little heart is just beating so fast," Lyons said.
Ryder said his favorite part was the choir.
"They all sang to me because I was really brave, and then maybe they just gave me a flower," Ryder said.
His parents, Casey and Roman Roark, said their outlook on life and the holiday will never be the same.
"What we think of Valentine's Day has certainly changed, and I think to give that perspective to other people, that it's more than just flowers and cards, it's about the heart to us and it means a lot more," Casey Roark said.
Ryder said he just wants one thing--- for everyone to enjoy the holiday.
"I hope you all have a great Valentine's," Ryder said.
According to the American Heart Association, this week is National Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week.
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