A Howard Beach street corner was co-named in honor of Valentina Marie Allen, a 2-year-old girl from the neighborhood who captured the heart of the community before she tragically died from hypoplastic left heart syndrome in 2015.
Councilwoman Joann Ariola hosted the official co-naming ceremony on Saturday, May 6, at the corner of 163rd Avenue and 86th Street, which is now known as “Valentina’s Way,” just three blocks east of Spring Creek Park.
“In her short time on Earth, Valentina made a huge impact on the entire community,” Ariloa said. “Because of her, we’ve raised more awareness for the rare, congenital defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome than I ever thought possible, and this neighborhood has raised thousands upon thousands of dollars towards research so that other families might not have to suffer as the Allens did in the future.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form correctly. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is one type of congenital heart defect. Congenital means present at birth. Because a baby with this defect needs surgery or other procedures soon after birth, HLHS is considered a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD).
Danielle and Ryan Allen brought their daughter to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for multiple surgeries to repair her defective heart, but she succumbed to her condition in May 2015. Her parents were overwhelmed by the Howard Beach community’s response as red balloons and ribbons festooned homes and businesses following their daughter’s funeral. Fundraisers have been held to mark her birthday ever since.
“Though Valentina is no longer with us, her presence is certainly felt each and every day,” Ariola said. “And now with this co-naming, we can make sure her legacy will live on for generations to come.”