hearts

Brad Davis/The Register-Herald

Nine-year-old Jahari Keith and his mother LaKeisha Barron-Brown greet attendees and speak briefly about their mission with Hearts United as a CPR training course in memory of Jahari’s late father Brian gets underway at the First Baptist Church on Braodway Street in Oak Hill Saturday morning.

Jahari Barron recalls the day his dad passed away on New Year’s Eve in 2018. In years past, his father, Brian Keith, had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and since his death, Jahari has dedicated much of his life to raising awareness to others on heart issues.

“I remember I woke up one morning to a scream, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened?’ I went to my grandma’s room, and she was crying. It was then that I was told my dad had passed,” Jahari said.

The 9-year-old said he remembers asking, “What happened to my dad?” and it was then he was told of his father’s heart issue. Jahari said he had no idea his father had the disease.

In March, Jahari and his mother, LaKeisha Barron-Brown, began to brainstorm ways to honor his father, and the nonprofit organization Hearts United was born. The organization focuses on community education, advocacy and scholarship opportunities.

On Saturday, Hearts United partnered with Community Restoration Worship Center, First Baptist Church of Harlem Heights and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine-Rural Health Initiative Program Center for Rural and Community Health to offer the residents of Fayette County a free hands-only CPR training and blood pressure screening.

“I just wanted to do something to honor him and do something special for his birthday,” Jahari explained. “I started learning CPR a couple months ago, and I wanted to do this. I think my dad would be really happy.

“I’ve always had the urge to help people in need. That didn’t just start when my dad died, but I’ve felt that way since the day I was born, or for as long as I can remember.”

Jahari’s mother, Barron-Brown, had a photo on her phone of the whole family on Dec. 25, 2018. On the wall behind her husband was a pair of angel wings. The wings were perched perfectly behind Brian Keith’s head.

“He died on New Year’s Eve, but we felt that he gained his wings into Heaven that day,” Barron-Brown said. “When we were looking for photos for his obituary, we were all stunned. We couldn’t believe those wings perched on my mother-in-law’s wall were right behind his head. It just seemed fitting.”

Barron-Brown said although Hearts United offers education for all those who are interested, she said it’s very important they serve the African American community, because heart disease is very prominent in that community.

“My husband was quiet, but you still would often know what he was thinking,” she said with a smile. “I have no doubt he’d be very proud of Jahari.”

Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter@jnelsonRH

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