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Students create game for classmate with rare heart condition

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Kids love to run and play. It comes natural. But for Charlie VanderHyde, running isn't an option, it's actually life-threatening if he isn't careful.

So Charlie's classmates have come up with a creative way to include him in a sporting game. The fifth graders from Holy Spirit School came up with human foosball.

"This game is incredible," Tanya Kooistra, Charlie's teacher, said.

"It's different because it's safer for kids that have disabilities," Charlie said.

He has a rare condition known as hypoblastic left heart syndrome. It means Charlie's heart doesn't pump blood properly, leading to a lack oxygen in the rest of his body. His mom, Abby VanderHyde, said he can't be in extreme temperatures and cannot undergo physical exertion, so he can't run or play contact sports. "He can't take a ball or a blow to the chest too greatly. It makes his heart start to constrict. We actually just had a scare a couple weeks ago."

With the help of his pediatrician and his mom, Charlie's classmates focused on what he can do and how they could help. The rules of human foosball are that players stay in place in their assigned areas: no running and no letting the ball leave the ground.

"It's a lot of fun, because I don't usually get to play with them like this," Charlie said.

"This is a group that's had challenges along the way, and this game has brought them together. And it has accentuated some of their skills that I didn't even know they had," Kooistra said.

"It's very sweet to watch the amount of understanding that they had to understand about Charlie's condition, and the compassion that they showed just to include one person to play a game with them," Abby said.

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital was also on hand. They were very impressed with the students' idea and mentioned how the clinic would like to incorporate the game at the YMCA.

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