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7-year-old Constantine boy raises money for American Heart Assn.

CONSTANTINE, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A St. Joseph County boy is turning tragedy into triumph.

7-year-old Zachary Wahls of Constantine lost his brother Matthew to a rare heart syndrome back in 2007.

Wednesday, Zachary's elementary school took part in a fundraiser for the American Heart Association.

Newschannel 3 talked to Zachary and his mom, and found out why at such a young age, he wanted to give back.

"It was very hard," Zachary's mom Dominic said. "We found out at my 18 week ultrasound."

Matthew Wahls was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome--a rare heart defect that leaves the left ventricle of the heart severely underdeveloped.

The CDC estimates that just 960 babies are born with the syndrome every year.

"When he was born, one minute later, he suffered a heart attack," Dominic said.

Matthew underwent surgery, but died just days later.

"I miss him a lot," Zachary said.

It's a hard concept for any first grader to grasp, but when Dominic learned the school would be raising money for the American Heart Association, it was no longer just any fundraiser--it was personal.

Soon, Zachary understood the significance too.

They made t-shirts, shared their story with local businesses, and raised money online, with the hopes they could make a difference for other families.

"So kids that have the same thing don't have to go through this stuff," Zachary said.

When all was said and done, Zachary raised about $300, and the elementary schools brought in a whopping $13,000 total.

The money raised for the American Heart Association will go toward research for children with special hearts, just like Matthew.