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Colleen Dudley

Superwoman’s real name is Colleen Dudley. Colleen is a very busy women, but she still finds a way to be active in her DC community, whether it’s at a hospital, as an AHA You’re the Cure Advocate, or as a volunteer.

Colleen received her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Cleveland State University and then worked as a nurse at a Neurology and Stroke Unit in Cleveland. Currently, she is the Stroke Program Coordinator at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) and is working toward her masters in nursing at John Hopkins University.

Despite these demands for her time, she still finds a way to be active in the DC community. Colleen often volunteers with Miriam’s Kitchen, an organization that provides nutritious meals and social services to the homeless. She advocates for nurses in DC and is a member of the American Heart Association’s DC Advocacy Coordinating Committee. Colleen has been an advocate with the AHA for over a year and a half – she became involved with the AHA because of her passion to help people live healthier lives and her experiences as a nurse. Colleen has been a committed and motivated advocate.

One moment that really stands out is when she advocated to implement changes in her own workplace. When she learned about the Workplace Wellness bill in the District (which requires 50 percent of food in government vending machines to meet healthy standards), she decided to implement a similar program in her own workplace. According to Colleen, this was a rewarding experience because she was able to “see the plan come into fruition… and get more people interested in advocacy.”  (Read more about that success HERE!)

Colleen is an advocate with You’re the Cure because she believes that the policies will make a difference in the community. To become an advocate with You’re the Cure please follow this link: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/register.aspx

 

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Mary Kay Ballasiotes

Mary Kay Ballasiotes, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

Mary Kay Ballasiotes has been advocating for children for over 15 years.  Her daughter, Michelle had a stroke before she was born and that moment changed both of their lives forever. Mary Kay’s advocacy days started in 2002 in Chicago where she founded the Childhood Stroke & Hemiplegia Connections of Illinois, simply because there was a need for it.  Before long, Mary Kay and her daughter were fixtures at Lobby Day.  At National Lobby Day, May 2006, Mary Kay spoke with the Vice President of the American Stroke Association (ASA) and told him about her daughter having a stroke before birth.  She learned that the VP had never heard of pediatric stroke. From that day on Mary Kay made it her mission to collaborate with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the ASA about pediatric stroke, and to raise awareness about it.

Over the years, Mary Kay and Michelle attended heart walks, lobby days, and were very vocal about pediatric stroke in each state they have lived in: Illinois, Georgia, and now North Carolina. Most recently, Mary Kay co-produced a pediatric stroke awareness video with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.  The video was created to raise awareness that strokes can happen in babies, children and even before birth. Join us here  to watch this impactful video.   

Making a difference in people’s lives is the most rewarding element of being part of advocacy.  Mary Kay and Michelle have attended many lobby days over the years, both national and state.  The experience never gets old to Mary Kay.  She loves seeing how her passion and effort can make a difference, and strongly feels that one person can make a difference!  In August 2010, Mary Kay and her family moved to North Carolina where she soon started working with Betsy Vetter, the AHA Director of Government Relations in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.  Mary Kay readily admits her love of working with Betsy.  She is one of the reasons Mary Kay is still volunteering and advocating with AHA.  Mary Kay feeds off Betsy’s passion and enthusiasm and feels that Betsy has a gift for working with volunteers and government officials.

Mary Kay is very proud of her daughter Michelle and the hard work that she has been doing right alongside her mother. While back in Chicago in 2007, Michelle was chosen to be one of the 12 “Faces of Cardiovascular Disease.”  Her image was captured on one of many large posters that were circulated around the United States for Heart Walks.  These posters are still being used today.  Because of Mary Kay and Michelle’s hard work, they were both featured in an ABC news article once again shedding light on pediatric stroke. In 2009, Michelle was honored with the Stroke Hero of the Year and received the National Youth Advocate of the Year award.

Mary Kay’s calling is to advocate for children. She feels that things happen for a reason. The stroke that Michelle suffered enabled both Michelle and Mary Kay to reach other families and make a difference in their lives and in the area of pediatric stroke.  Mary Kay does not have much free time, but when she does, she enjoys going out to lunch with friends and reading. 

One great memory Mary Kay has included that of her son, Alex.  While driving back from picking Alex up at college, he remarked how much he admires the work that she has done over the years.  The example that Mary Kay has provided has empowered him to pay it forward by getting involved in politics and leadership roles.   May Kay continues to advocate for children and wants everyone to know that one person can make a difference.

 

 

 Advocate interview provided by Blog Contributor Amanda Orfitelli.

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Mark Your Calendar for the EmpowerMEnt Challenge!

We’re gearing up for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and we want you to be in on all of the action!  Throughout September, we’re encouraging families across the country to take control of their healthy by participating in the EmpowerMEnt Challenge.  Each week, families and kids will pursue a different goal, including eating more fruits and veggies, limiting sugary drinks, reducing sodium intake, and increasing physical activity.  Each goal is fun, simple, won’t break the bank and can be done as a family.  And by the end of the month, families will be a step ahead on the road to a heart-healthy life. 

So mark your calendar for the challenge kick-off on September 1st!  Complimentary templates and activities, broken down into the themed weeks, are now available on www.heart.org/healthierkids.  In addition, you're invited to join our EmpowerMEnt Challenge Facebook group, where you can make the commitment to take the challenge and share your progress with others.  

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Help You're the Cure by Having a Party?!

Huh?!  I can help You’re the Cure by having a party?  You sure can, and it’s fun to do!    

Tupperware might have started the trend, but many since have figured out the beauty of sharing a message with a group of friends to help get something done.  One of the ways we get advocacy done is with ‘house parties.’  

Growing the You’re the Cure network is our how we have power to leverage, to get our bills passed – bills that help people live longer healthier lives.  A house party is a fun way you can pull your friends and family into the fold, helping them understand the importance of our work, and inviting them to help the cause by joining the network.  And unlike Tupperware, it won’t cost them a penny. 

Here’s how simple it can be:

  • Let us know what you want to do so we can provide support! If you don’t already have our contact information, find your AHA advocacy contacts here.  
  • Pick a date and invite your contacts.  Include information about why working with us is important to you.  Many now use online event-planning tools like Eventbrite, to make sending invitation and tracking RSVPs easier than pie.  Facebook is a good distribution vehicle too.  Or maybe phone calls or written invitations are more your cup of tea.  You decide what works best for you.
  • Plan a few healthy snacks….yeah they should be healthy!  You are representing the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, after all.  We have lots of free healthy recipes online, and you can keep it very simple.  
  • At the event, mingle with your guests, have fun, and make a short pitch asking them to join the effort.  We have guides and sign-up sheets you can use to make it easy.
  • Take pics for sharing, and be sure to thank everyone!
  • Let us know how it went, and return sign-ups so we can get them entered in the network!

Here’s what Larry and Karen Calhoun, a North Carolina couple who do house parties annually, say: 

“We do a party for You’re the Cure and the Heart Walk every year, and it’s become something we really look forward to. We cook a heart healthy Cajun meal and thus our team name, the Cardiac Cajuns. The American Heart Association has helped us get organized and given support by providing information and visual displays about YTC, heart disease, and the work of AHA.  We really enjoy getting our friends together and love knowing we’re helping build the grassroots network in the process.”

You can put your own twist on the idea to ‘make it your own.’  We even heard of someone who did a mobile house party, going around to their friends’ houses to do individual sign-ups! 

Host the Ultimate House Party: a party that can save lives!   Will you do one?

 

 Guests mingle and chat at a 'House Party' at Larry and Karen Calhoun's

 

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Be One In A Million

Million Hearts is an answer. Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the country and the #1 killer of women.  But effective community CVD prevention interventions have been underutilized due to a lack of a coordinated national effort.  We must do something to change this, but what could be big enough?

Million Hearts is a national initiative by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that has set an ambitious goal to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Million Hearts aims to prevent heart disease and stroke by:

  • Improving access to effective care.
  • Improving the quality of care.
  • Focusing clinical attention on the prevention of heart attack and stroke.
  • Activating the public to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.
  • Improving the prescription and adherence to appropriate medications.

Each year there are approximately 2 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States. The campaign is expected to produce a 10 percent reduction in the rate of acute cardiovascular events each year for 5 years resulting in one million heart attack and strokes prevented.

The AHA applauds the launch of Million Hearts and is grateful for the opportunities we have been provided to help inform, shape, and support the initiative. We look forward to joining and partnering with the HHS in implementing this initiative, which has the potential to advance the mission and work of the AHA dramatically and to help us achieve our ambitious 2020 Health Impact Goal.

This initiative will focus, coordinate, and enhance cardiovascular disease prevention activities across the public and private sectors in an unprecedented effort to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 and demonstrate to all that improving the health system can save lives.

Will you be one in a million?  Be one who makes the commitment to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle….do your part to live a life free of heart disease and stroke. 

Watch your inbox for our action requests to support You’re the Cure policy efforts around healthy living and prevention.  Open and click to help more of the million get there!

 

Thanks to volunteer writer/YTC advocate Karen Wiggins, for help developing this blog post.

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Sara Beckwith

Sara Beckwith, District of Columbia

Why is advocacy work so important? To Sara Beckwith it is about passion, and because she “truly believes that we have a voice and it is imperative to use our voice to work on programs such as the Healthy Tots Act and the Workplace Wellness Act.” Sara has worked hard with You’re the Cure and the American Heart Association to be an advocate for heart healthy legislation because she has witnessed the benefits firsthand in the community.

Sara is also passionate about food. One of her favorite activities is trying different restaurants in the District with her husband and when she cooks she experiments with different recipes. Food is also an essential part of her career. She first became interested in improving heart health when she worked as a cardiopulmonary rehab dietician in North Carolina. This position allowed her to help patients recuperating from heart surgeries and teach them how to take care of their hearts by eating healthy.

For the last five years, Sara has worked as a dietician teaching low-income families in the District to make healthy choices. It is through these experiences that she has come to see the direct impacts of advocacy work on the health of families. She has worked hard to support the funding for tobacco cessation programs so that families in DC can receive the help that they need.

As a dietician, Sara has been able to council women about their high blood pressure and knows that many people do not understand the consequences of these health problems. These experiences have driven Sara’s passion to advocate for legislation that will impact the health of the community.

What Sara finds as the most satisfying about advocacy work is “being a part of the public policy process and having a voice” and to others out there sitting on the fence about advocating for healthier lives she would say “Never doubt the power of one voice, our personal stories, passion, and conviction have a tremendous impact on policy makers.”

 

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Amy Edmunds

Amy Edmunds, South Carolina

Opening doors has been the most rewarding aspect of my volunteer experience. Since experiencing ischemic stroke in 2002, I have been an actively engaged volunteer throughout the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.

Undoubtedly, the first door to open was my own! It has been an amazing transition to evolve from volunteer to spokesperson. But You're the Cure's comprehensive advocacy training helped hone my message and presentation to enable me to comfortably address the Rally for Medical Research last year to urge Congress to restore National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. And, it was a treat to meet with AHA's CEO Nancy Brown and NIH's Executive Director Dr. Francis Collins!

Please, join me at hour 1, minute 15 to hear my message.

(Please visit the site to view this video)

For me, You're the Cure has afforded the opportunity to champion issues related to stroke among young adults from a local to national platform. Over the years, I have not only participated in numerous local Heart Walks, HeartBalls, and Go Red For Women events but also statewide lobby initiatives, national taskforces and Lobby Days. And, yes... even to the White House as a briefing attendee.??

So, go ahead and open the door to opportunity... for yourself as well as for those you love!

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Tell Us Who You Really Are!

Tailor your experience with us! Your profile on the You’re the Cure website is vital for us to convey our policy needs. Keeping our advocates informed and up-to-date on policy issues is the best way to guarantee that our advocacy partnership stays strong and when we need to make a move, we can reach you on the issues you are interested in.

When it comes to your personal advocate profile, we want to make sure you receive the information that you prefer and feel passionately about. It’s important that we know what policies most interest you.

CLICK HERE so we can make sure that you are presented with advocacy opportunities that truly speak to you.

It takes just a few moments to update your profile and interests, and those moments go a long way in ensuring that you hear the most current news and get action opportunities on issues that strike close to your heart.

As always, we thank you and appreciate you for what you have done, what you are doing now, and what you will do as a You’re the Cure advocate in the future.

Thank you for making a difference.

 

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Healthy Eating Just Got That Much Easier

Healthy eating in DC just got that much easier! DC Council has recently voted “Yes” on Workplace Wellness Act (B20-0049), which creates healthier working environments for government employees. Inspired by this current legislation, a local hospital is taking similar proactive steps to meet healthy nutrition standards.

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) took the idea to heart by making healthy vending machine options a part of their everyday workplace. The MGUH Nursing Healthcare Advocacy and Legislative Council set a goal to ensure forty percent of vending machine products will meet healthy criteria. The program has been met with enthusiasm and since May the changes have been systematically implemented. The hospital has even tried to find different ways of promoting healthier options, such as, labeling healthier products with different labels and highlighting new changes in staff newsletters.

Colleen Dudley the Stroke Program Coordinator at MGUH and a member of the DC Stroke Collaborative stated, “I think the Workplace Wellness Act is a great stride in the right direction to improve health in DC.  Obesity is a major problem in the US and in the District.  Having more healthy options in our vending machines is a visible sign to our patients and visitors that MGUH is committed to wellness and encourages healthy living.”

The Workplace Wellness Act will be implemented in DC government buildings within the next year. This Act requires that all food provided by DC government (and 50 percent of vending machine items) must meet federally recognized health standards. This will better enable people to make healthy eating habits a part of their daily lives by allowing convenient food to also be healthy food. 

The American Heart Association supports the Workplace Wellness Act and creating healthier working environments.  Learn more about advocating with You’re the Cure and make a real difference by following this link: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/register.aspx

 

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DC Advocacy Wins!

 

 

A BIG shout out to You’re the Cure advocates who supported important health legislation in Washington, DC this year. The final vote on the District’s 2015 budget on June 24th reminded volunteers why they advocate for health: it makes a difference!  With this legislation DC made key steps towards creating a healthier city through tobacco prevention and nutrition policies.

As part of its 2015 Budget package, DC Council approved three pieces of legislation that will help prevent tobacco use in the district:

  • The tax rate on “other tobacco Products” (OTP) was increased to the same rate as cigarettes. Taxing these products equally will discourage use, especially among youth, and will save lives.  
  • $2.75 million was allocated for tobacco prevention programs including the DC Quitline.
  • The previously enacted Smoking Restriction Act makes smoking in DC parks, playgrounds, and bus stops illegal. The new budget includes $185,000 for no-smoking signs in designated places to promote this law.

DC Council also approved important legislation to promote healthier nutrition and wellness in the District:

  • $3.3 million was budgeted for the implementation of the Healthy Tots Act. This establishes nutrition and physical activity standards for DC child development facilities and reimburses facilities for the additional cost of providing healthy foods.
  • The Workplace Wellness Act establishes a wellness policy for all DC government agencies and requires that all food and beverage served by DC government (and 50 percent of food/beverage in vending machines in DC government buildings) meet federal nutrition standards.

The approval of these bills is a big deal to the advocates who helped to move them forward, and they understand the impact for others. You’re the Cure advocate Sara Beckwith stated “It can be challenging to find time in our busy lives to be physically active. The Workplace Wellness Act of 2014 will provide excellent opportunities for DC government employees to increase physical activity as well as make healthy food choices during the work day.  It is very exciting to see DC Government working to achieve the American Heart Association's gold-level designation as a ‘Fit-Friendly’ workplace.”

Kudos also, to DC Council (pictured above), for their support of these significant policy advances.

The American Heart Association is a strong supporter of policies that improve wellness in Washington, DC. Learn more about advocating with You’re the Cure and make a real difference: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/register.aspx

 

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