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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  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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Susan Canning, Massachusetts

Sue Canning became an advocate because of her son Kevin. Kevin was born on April 8, 1992.Kevin was loved by everyone because he didn’t take life too seriously and was always trying to make people laugh. Kevin started playing sports very young, including hockey competitively from the age of 3 on as well as baseball, lacrosse, golf and was a member of the Springfield Rifle Rugby Team. As many of Kevin’s teammates would tell you, his motto was “No Excuses, Play like a Champion”. Off the ice or field, Kevin would live by another motto: “Live Every Day, Laugh Every Moment, and Love beyond Words.”

Kevin had a big heart, unfortunately on July 11, 2011, this physical “big heart” took Kevin’s life. After Kevin died his family found out he had a “Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)." He had experienced no symptoms and the family never knew he had this condition.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 5,000 young people between 15 and 34 years of age die annually from “Sudden Cardiac Arrest." The leading cause of death is HCM, an abnormally enlarged heart muscle. Because of what happened to Kevin, Sue started KEVS Foundation to sponsor cardiac screenings for young people in our community and to bring awareness and education around CPR and AED information.

Sue’s goal has always been to help raise awareness of “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” through education, cardiovascular screenings for young persons and to provide state of the art Automatic Emergency Defibrillators (AED) and CPR in the community. Sue has become a tireless advocate around requiring coaches and students to know CPR. She has made phone calls, visits to her lawmakers, reached out to the press and has activated all her friends and family to do the same. She knows that Kevin could have suffered sudden cardiac arrest on a field or in a rink and she would have felt safer knowing that the coach was equipped with the knowledge of CPR. She also thinks about if Kevin’s friends had known CPR would they have been able to save them in that situation? She has become a strong voice around the issue of CPR and AEDs and I look forward to the day we can honor Kevin by passing these critical pieces of legislation.

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A Heartfelt Thanks

Thank YOU! Because of all your hard work we have been able to able to make sure that all babies born are screened for congenital heart defects, we made sure to make sure that kids don’t start smoking and adults quit by increasing the tobacco tax, we made sure that our cities and towns are thinking about walking biking when they construct new roads or fix existing roads by including important language on complete streets in the Transportation Bond Bill and we made sure that our communities have access to fresh fruits and vegetables by including fresh food financing in the Environment Bond Bill. All of these efforts will help make our Commonwealth more heart-healthy and stroke-free! 

Even with all this great work, we still have so much more to do. As the legislators start to wind down we want to make sure they still take action on a few critical bills this fall. Please continue to act on all alerts to ask your legislators for support on key pieces of legislation that would require all coaches to learn CPR, improving the access to quality, age-appropriate physical education for all students and requiring healthy options in vending machines in State Buildings. 

I know that I ask a lot from you, but it truly makes a difference and I can’t thank you enough for your dedication and passion for the cause. Thank YOU for all YOU do.


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2 Days Left and So Much to Do!

With only two days left before the legislators break for the summer we need a last push to get some critical legislations to help our kids passed. The House still needs to take action on legislation that would require all coaches to know CPR, restricting the sale and use of E-Cigarettes, and requiring healthy vending in State Buildings and the Senate has a chance to pass legislation that would provide quality physical education in our schools. We also have a chance to get some language in around setting up a stroke system of care and we are waiting for final approval on fresh food financing.

Your legislators are hearing from all advocates in these last few days, it is crucial that your voices is being heard too so if you have not already taken action please do so today! Send an email or call your legislators today and let them know that these issues are important to you! I  appreciate your help and your continued advocacy we only have a few days to pass some important legislative priorities, and I hope to be passing along some good news on Friday!



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Rachel Henry, Massachusetts

Eleven years ago, at the age of 30, Rachel suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in her doctor's office during a routine checkup. Thankfully, her doctor knew what was happening and Rachel was able to receive immediate lifesaving care. It was a long road, but she always says that stroke changed her physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  For years, Rachel asked, "Why me?  Why did I have a stroke?"  Now, it is "Why not me?  What can I do now?  Who can I help?” She had her stroke and was saved and since then has been working to prevent strokes, treat survivors and ensure a healthier future. Rachel says “I am here to help the AHA/ASA accomplish their mission.  It is my mission too.  I speak for stroke survivors who can't.  I talk to people who don't understand.”

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Aphasia Advocates Back Improved Stroke Care Bills

We know that stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the U.S. A stroke can have various communication effects, one of which is aphasia. Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia, which is a language disorder that affects the ability to communicate. Aphasia does not affect intelligence. Stroke survivors remain mentally alert, even though their speech may be jumbled, fragmented or impossible to understand. People with aphasia are often frustrated and confused because they can’t speak as well or understand things the way they did before their stroke. They may act differently because of changes in their brain. Imagine looking at the headlines of the morning newspaper and not being able to recognize the words. Or think about trying to say "put the car in the garage" and it comes out "put the train in the house" or "widdle tee car ung sender plissen." Thousands of alert, intelligent men and women are suddenly plunged into a world of jumbled communication because of aphasia. Our legislators have the opportunity to help people currently living with aphasia and try to ensure that when someone suffers a stroke they are treated quickly so they have a chance to reverse disabilities like aphasia associated with stroke.

I was honored to be a part of the Aphasia Day at the State House on June 26th. We, at the American Stroke Association, joined with the hundreds of you living with aphasia and caregivers. We joined with them to advocate for two bills that can help improve stroke care and provide resources to survivors living with aphasia. We took the opportunity to thank the State Repreentatives for passing House Bill #4162 which establishes a special commission to investigate and study the programs and resources necessary to meet the unmet needs of persons with aphasia and their families and asked the Senate to act quickly on this legialatino to ensure that we are dedicating time to determine what resources are needed for people who are living with aphasia.

In addition, we asked legislators to help to move critical legislation that establishes a Stroke System of Care in the Commonwealth. With improved systems of care in Massachusetts, we can save the lives of many residents who suffer a stroke. We urge legislators to pass Senate Bill #2075 that will designate the best medical centers to treat stroke and ensure that care is delivered as promptly as possible. Each year, thousands of lives are lost to stroke largely due to a lack of coordination between emergency services, health professionals and treatment facilities. We can address the problem by passing this legislation that would close gaps in the continuum of care from prevention to recovery. Coordinated systems of care can save lives by providing stroke patients with seamless transitions from one stage of care to the next. I believe that this bill that would designate the best medical centers to treat stroke and establish an official state registry must be a priority for all members of the legislature.

I know sometimes you think about aphasia or stroke, what can I really do? "I am only human", but you can do so much, your voice can make a huge difference. Just being here today sharing your story and showing legislators what aphasia is, is making a difference. You are being an advocate today. You Advocacy is creating an environment that motivates people to act and helps increases visibility of your issue. Your advocacy can be powerful tool for producing social change where we live and work and if you don’t – who will? 

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Tedy Tackles the Legislature

On June 18th, Tedy Bruschi came to the State House to talk about important Stroke Legislation. He has been a dedicated advocate for us since suffering his stroke. He spoke passionately to the legislators about how he had a "stroke system of care" in place because he was a three time super bowl champion and a member of the New England Patriots. Shouldn't everyone get the same level of high quality care that Tedy got? He thinks so and I agree! We have been fighting for a number of years to improve the stroke system of care in Massachusetts and we are close. The Senate included language in their budget to create a tiered system of care and we are now fighting to keep it in the final budget. Tedy met with key legislative leaders to ensure that this can happen.

Tedy shared his story and the story of all the people he meets that have not been treated quickly, he talked about why time matters and he spoke about how because he went to the right hospital and was given the right treatment and diagnosis he was able to be a father, a husband and even a football player again. He talked about all the titles he has had over the years, super bowl champion, pro-bowler, but the one he says he is most proud of...Stroke Survivor. I know many other amazing survivors who would agree.

It is time for the legislators to act; it is time for Massachusetts who is a leader in health care with their world-class hospitals to be a leader in providing high quality stroke care. Will you help us?

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Boston Teacher is Saved by Heroes in her School!

When Joan Eacmen, a teacher at Roxbury’s O’Bryant School of Math & Science, collapsed in front of her classroom in March from cardiac arrest, students and staff took action. Their quick thinking and combined efforts to call for help, administer CPR and use the school’s AED are what saved Joan's life. On June 4th, we were able to recognize these heart savers as part of National CPR & AED Awareness Week. Members of the school community including students; Zi Liu, Nakeo Murray, and Railin Castro; school nurse, Carrie Bell Peace and assistant principal Bettie Nolan, are credited with saving Eacmen’s life on March 31, 2014. Recognizing their teacher was in need of immediate medical help after collapsing in the midst of instruction, the students took charge, clearing the area and summoning their school nurse and assistant principal who then performed CPR and used an AED until Boston EMS arrived.

When I think of what a heart saver is I think its someone who acts quickly in the face of a shocking and traumatic event like a sudden cardiac arrest. The students and staff who jumped into action and recognized that their teacher needed help are most certainly heart savers and are the examples to showing the importance of knowing how to respond in the event of cardiac emergency as a team!

National CPR & AED Awareness Week, celebrated annually during June 1-7, highlights how lives can be saved by learning CPR and how to use an AED. Each year, more than 420,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby, which if performed immediately, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Unfortunately, statistics show that most Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they don’t know how to administer CPR or they’re afraid of hurting the victim.

Both Boston EMS and the physicians at Brigham and Woman’s hospital said that if immediate CPR and an AED were not used, Joan would not be alive toady. Because Boston Public Schools made a commitment to protect the community by ensuring that AEDs are available at all times in school facilities and that school personnel and students have the opportunity to learn the lifesaving skill of CPR, Joan was able to thank the students, staff and the school for saving her life!

Boston Public Schools started their commitment to strengthening the chain of survival in 2002 when the first AED was placed at Boston Latin School and in 2006 when CPR training was introduced to school staff and students. We continue to work with schools across Massachusetts to encourage them to teach students CPR, a move that could save thousands of more lives, just like Joan's!

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1 Million New Lifesavers Will be in Our Communities Every Year, But Why Not in Massachusetts?

More than one million high school students a year will be trained in CPR because of state laws requiring the lifesaving skill as a graduation requirement and work done by the American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools efforts. As a result of 16 states, Oklahoma being the latest addition, across the country now requiring CPR for graduation, all one million students that graduate annually in these states will have been taught CPR. This means one million new qualified lifesavers will be added to our communities each and every year. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Washington now have laws or regulations on the books which require, prior to graduating from high school, all students to be trained in quality psychomotor skill based CPR. I wish Massachusetts was part of this list and I know with your help we can.

Over 420,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year, and only about 10 percent survive, most likely 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 community with lifesavers—those trained to give sudden cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMTs arrive. 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. But most do not. That’s a reality that has to change, starting today. Teaching students CPR before they graduate will now put millions of qualified lifesavers on our streets every year. Everyone benefits from having more lifesavers in our community. Learn about this important milestone at

If you want to join with us and help your school district teach the lifesaving skill of CPR to their students. If you want to join, you can email me at to get started!


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Volunteer Named a Unsung Heroine of Massachusetts

I am always so excited when our volunteers and advocates are recognized for their hard work! Diane Pickles was named by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) as an Unsung Heroine. The MCSW is an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance woman of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and promote their rights and opportunities. This was the 11th annual Unsung Heroine event to highlight woman who are performing unheralded acts of public leadership and volunteerism in our communities.

Diane has been a dedicated and tireless advocate for heart disease and stroke awareness and prevention for more than 18 years. She was inspired to take action after her son Jake was born with a life-threatening congenital heart defect. He had his first open heart surgery at just three days old, the second at six months and his third when he was two years old. Jake was diagnosed early and received excellent care and has happily just finished his first year of college. For the past two decades, Diane has been active with the AHA and has advocated on behalf of issues of health care access, insurance coverage, congenital heart, AEDs and CPR, tobacco and stroke. She was a driving force behind lobbying the Massachusetts legislature to pass An Act Relative to Newborn Pulse Oximetry Screenings for Newborns for Congenital Heart Defects in March 2014.I truly believe that without Diane's perseverance this bill might not have gotten done! Diane was also recently named on our 2014 Go Red for Woman Boston Spokesperson and is the Vice Chair of the MA Advocacy Advisory Committee.

I want to thank Senator Kathleen O'Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) for recognizing Diane's passion and dedication and nominating her to be an Unsung Heroine. I know we at the AHA truly believe that Diane demonstrates what an unsung heroine is! I was so proud to be part of her being recognized and I look forward to the next great advocacy victory we can achieve!

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