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Dari Nowkhah

Dari Nowkhah, lead announcer for ESPNU and former Lincoln TV personality, set up a foundation in honor of his newborn son, Hayden Michael, who passed away in August while waiting for a heart transplant. (RICH ARDEN)

Life was good for Dari Nowkhah until it wasn't.

A former weekend anchor at Lincoln ABC affiliate KLKN-TV, Nowkhah began his new job in July in Charlotte, N.C., as the lead anchor at ESPNU (Time Warner Cable channels 303, 1303).

A month later, he and his wife, Jenn, whom he met in Lincoln, welcomed their third child, Hayden Michael, into the world. The Nowkhahs have a 6-year-old son, Nicolas, and 2-year-old adopted daughter, Nahla.

Then tragedy struck.

Born healthy, tiny Hayden contracted a virus just days after going home from the hospital. The virus attacked his heart, landing him on a transplant list.

But while waiting for a new heart, Hayden suffered a stroke and the Nowkhahs were forced to let their newborn son go after 39 days of life.

"I think we're doing the best we can," Nowkhah said in a phone interview. "Some days are OK, but some days aren't. We do a good job of balancing each other out, especially if one of us is having a bad day."

What really helped was the advice they took from a cantor at the hospital. He told them they had two choices: crumble or make something happen from their tragedy.

They chose the latter. Working in conjunction with the Children's Organ Transplant Association, the Nowkhahs set up Hayden's Hope within two weeks after their son's death. The foundation helps cover expenses families accrue while their children await organ transplants.

"It is our hope that Hayden's story inspires others to help children achieve the successful transplants they deserve so that they can live the life they were meant to live," Nowkhah said.

The foundation set a fundraising goal of $50,000, but Nowkhah said he and Jenn are "in it for the long haul" and hope to raise more money and awareness over the years. As of Friday, they were closing in on $24,000.

To learn more about the foundation, visit www.haydenshope.org. You can read Hayden's story, view pictures, sign the guestbook and, most importantly, donate money.

"The response we've gotten has completely blown us away," Nowkhah said. "We wanted to make something good come from this."

​Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/LJSjeffkorbelik.

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