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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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Teaching Gardens = Learning Laboratories for Kids

Studies show that when kids grow their own fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them. That’s the idea behind the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.  While 1/3 of American children are classified as overweight or obese, AHA Teaching Gardens is fighting this unhealthy trend by giving children access to healthy fruits and vegetables and instilling a life time appreciation for healthy foods.

Aimed at first through fifth graders, we teach children how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits. Garden-themed lessons teach nutrition, math, science and other subjects all while having fun in the fresh air and working with your hands.

Over 270 gardens are currently in use nationwide reaching and teaching thousands of students, with more gardens being added every day.  You can find an American Heart Association Teaching Garden in your area here or email teachinggardens@heart.org to find how you can get involved.

               

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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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Successful Bill Will Make Child Care Centers Healthier Places for Kids

The MD General Assembly passed a bill this session called The Child Care Centers – Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Act.  This important bill will impact many thousands of children in licensed child care centers! 

Read all about it here:  http://preventobesity.net/inside-track-may-22-c.  

You’re the Cure is developing plans to address other ‘healthy kid’ issues in the upcoming 2015 session, as well.  Watch your inbox over the coming months for more information.

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One Million Milestone

Did you hear the big news?  We’ve reached an amazing milestone in our campaign to teach all students to be ‘CPR Smart’!  17 states now require CPR training as a graduation requirement, which adds up to over one million annual graduates who are prepared to save a life.  Congratulations to all of the You’re the Cure advocates and community partners who have spoken-up for training our next generation of life-savers.   

But with every advocacy celebration comes a new call to action.  33 states still need to pass legislation to make CPR a graduation requirement and you can help us get there!  Here are a couple simple things you can do right now to get the word out:

1) Watch Miss Teen International Haley Pontius share how a bad day can be turned into a day to remember when students know CPR.  And don’t forget to share this PSA on social media with the hashtag #CPRinSchools!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

2) Do you live in one of the 33 states that have not made CPR a graduation requirement yet?  Take our Be CPR Smart pledge to show your support and join the movement.  We’ll keep you updated on the progress being made in your state. 


 

 

We hope you’ll help keep the momentum going as we support many states working to pass this legislation into 2015.  Several states have already had success in securing funding for CPR training in schools, but now need to push for the legislature to pass the graduation requirement and in Illinois, the Governor recently signed legislation that requires schools to offer CPR & AED training to students. 

Bystander CPR can double or triple survival rates when given right away and with 424,000 people suffering out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year, this law is critical to helping save lives.  Thank you for being part of our movement to train the next generation of life-savers!


PS- Inspired to be CPR smart too?  Take 60 seconds to learn how to save a life with Hands-Only CPR.

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CPR Matters

Sometimes you just need a lifesaver. Quickly. The American Heart Association is creating a generation of lifesavers by making sure students learn CPR before they graduate from high school.  The goal is to teach lifesaving CPR skills to as many teens and young adults as possible in every state to help keep our communities safer.  Having a new generation of lifesavers will benefit everyone.  We have heard many stories about emergency situations where bystanders do not know what to do, but a CPR-trained person is the one to remain calm and save a person’s life.

The need is dire. Nearly 424,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, and only 10.4% survive, often because they don’t receive timely CPR. Given right away, CPR doubles or triples survival rates. Teaching students CPR could save thousands of lives by filling our communities with those trained to give sudden cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMTs arrive. Almost 90 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die, most likely because they don’t get CPR treatment within the first few precious minutes.

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen any place, at any time. If you suffer sudden cardiac arrest, your best chance at survival is receiving bystander CPR until EMTs arrive.  Teaching students CPR before they graduate puts thousands of qualified lifesavers on our streets every year.

In less than 30-minutes, students can learn the skills they need to help save someone’s life with CPR. With a short time investment, today’s students will become tomorrow’s lifesavers. Everyone benefits from having more lifesavers in our community.

Here in The American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, You’re the Cure advocates have helped us make great progress on this goal, by telling their legislators all students should be trained in CPR before they graduate:

DC:  We’re working on it… DC City Council is looking at establishing emergency medical response plans and training in DC schools.  AHA, through You’re the Cure, is working with the committee to include student training requirements for graduation. CPR training in DC schools would prepare roughly 3500 students annually to save a life. If you live in DC, watch your inbox for action opportunities to support this effort as it unfolds.

MD:  We did that!  Breanna’s Bill passed just this year and will soon become a reality for MD students. If you live in MD, take a moment to Thank Your Legislators for this big win.  Because of CPR training in MD schools, there will be over 58,000 new lifesavers in MD communities every year.

NC:  We did that!  We passed HB 837 in 2012 and its implementation is well under way.  Because of CPR training in NC schools, there will be close to 87,000 new lifesavers in NC communities every year.

SC:  The SC General Assembly adjourned without passing CPR in Schools, but we will introduce next year.  When we get this bill passed there will be over 39,000 new lifesavers in SC communities every year.

VA:  We did that!  Gwyneth’s Law passed just last year and is in implementation stages now. Because of CPR training in VA schools, there will be over 79,500 new lifesavers in VA communities every year.


Thanks to You’re the Cure advocate Karen Wiggins, LPN, CHWC, for developing this blog post!

 

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