American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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The Truth Lies in the Lunch Bag

During August, while Congress is on recess, advocates are keeping the importance of child nutrition standards in front our lawmakers!

We have been working to support the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which provides strong nutrition standards for school meals.  Congress is working on appropriations, and the school nutrition standards have been a hot topic in the agriculture appropriations debate.  The House bill would allow schools to get waivers from these standards and the Senate bill would delay the sodium standards we support.  Because members of Congress are on recess, this is the perfect opportunity to urge their support for keeping the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act strong. 

On August 20th, You’re the Cure advocates Mary Kay Ballasiotes, Michelle Ballasiotes, Dr. Sandra Burke, Tracey Perry, and Judd Rupp, along with advocacy staff, Kim Chidester, met with Travis Manigan, Charlotte Regional Liaison for Senator Kay Hagan.  In that meeting, they discussed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and how important it is to the students and families in North Carolina for Senator Hagan to support this legislation. 

Michelle Ballasiotes shared the reasons why, as a high school student, she brings her lunch to school and has for years: the food isn’t very good and she’d rather bring her food than buy at school.  Her testimony is evident of the larger problem: students in North Carolina, and across the county, need and want nutritious foods to eat for lunch – and with some students being given only 20 minutes to eat, a quick and healthy meal is vital to their well-being.

The meeting was very positive, and it was indicative of how easy it is to become involved in the political process as a You’re the Cure advocate on local and federal issues.

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Triad Advocates Raising Awareness and Making a Difference

Have you checked out the most recent addition of Heart Insight Magazine? Gracing the cover page is the Triad Triage Trio from North Carolina! 

You’re the Cure advocates David Layton and Anne Howell have joined forces with Randy Ludington to raise awareness about cardiac risk factors.  David is a stroke survivor while Anne and Randy are both heart survivors. Together they share their stories and emphasize the importance of preventing cardiovascular disease.

Both Anne and David, as members of You’re the Cure, know the importance of taking action and using their voices to ensure that our public policies are building a healthier North Carolina where the healthy choice is the easy choice.  

Take a moment today to check out the story (page 4):

You’re the Cure NC is proud of the work of the Triad Triage Trio and their commitment to educating everyone about the risk factors and warning signs of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.  Thank you Triad Triage Trio for working to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

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We've Come So Far, North Carolina!

On August 7th, Governor McCrory signed the state budget. This year's short session has been a lively one with some surprises including that the Legislature still has not concluded session and that we expect the Legislature will return for work this November on Medicaid Reform. As always, we will monitor all the legislative activities and keep you informed. During the active session, we made strides toward our policy issues and we are making plans to build strong support for our legislative issues in 2015. Thank you for your advocacy this year!

Healthy Food Financing/Food Deserts
This year, we have been working to educate lawmakers about the importance of improving access to healthy foods and eliminating food deserts in our state. While we weren't successful in securing funding for improving healthy food access through a healthy corner store or healthy food financing initiative, we did educate many lawmakers. Our work must continue and we need your help, and your voice, to continue the conversation with your elected officials this summer to remind them how important this issue is to the state of North Carolina. Email your lawmakers today and let them know you support funding healthy corner store and healthy food financing initiatives for our neighbors across the state.

Stroke Advisory Council (SAC)
We supported a $50,000 funding request for the Stroke Advisory Council as recommended by the Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (JWHDSP) Task Force. Unfortunately, we were not successful in securing this funding. We did successfully work in collaboration with the JWHDSP Task Force to engage the General Assembly and the Governor in Hypertension Awareness Day on May 21st.

Tobacco Prevention Funding
In 2014, we sought $1,000,000 in recurring funding for tobacco use prevention programs, as well as a separate $200,000 in funding for the You Quit, Two Quit program to help pregnant women quit smoking. With money tight, we were not successful in increasing funding for tobacco control. Lawmakers worked hard to secure the You Quit, Two Quit funding, but efforts were not successful. Instead, they added You Quit, Two Quit to the list of programs that can compete competitively for grant funding.

Our work must continue if we are to improve the lives of our neighbors, our children, and ourselves. Thank you for using your voice. Together we will build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Life is why.

Click here to urge your lawmakers to eliminate North Carolina's food deserts in 2015.

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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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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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Bravo to you, our You’re the Cure family!

It’s hard to believe we are already in August and well into the second half of year. We would like to reflect on how far we have come in 2014, and all of the advances we have made in North Carolina this year.  We invested sweat and tears into multiple policies for our state, and we want to take this moment to thank you!

While we have work left to do on our policy initiatives from this year, we can say for certain that we made this progress due to the time and energy of our You’re the Cure advocates.  Every email, phone call, visit or letter to the editor that you may have written was resoundingly successful in conveying to our legislators across the state that you felt passionately about eliminating food deserts, funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and continuing to fund our Stroke Advisory Council.

We value each and every one of you, and we appreciate all that you have done as you have walked this journey beside us.  But we would like to take this opportunity to recognize our top advocates: you have been fearless and you have risen to the highest ranks of grassroots advocacy, and today: it is all about you!

Thank you to our Heroes:

Ilana Adlee, Becky Anderson, Diane Bevill, Amy Blackwelder, Tiffany Burk, Larry Calhoun, Candy Carter, G.W. Cheney, Diana Craft, Johnnie Davis, Cynthia Dequenne, Chanda Douglas-Ward, Lynn Elliott, Abby Fairbank, Michael Felmet, Christen Folk, Sloan Garner, Larry Goldstein, Johnny Hall, Allee Harrell, Russell Hindle, Katherine Jetton, Xiaoying Li, Patrick Libby, Dave Iloiselle, Joye Mullis, Jennifer Park, Emily Parkman, Jon Powell, Joyce Pusel, Connie Raper, Peter Reynolds, Kathryn Robinson, Joseph Skelton, Katie Spears, Angela Tompkins, Aleksandr Vendrov, Sheree Vodicka, Loretta Warren, Erica Winter

Thank you to our Aces:

Judy Allen, Robert Blackburn, Erin Brandon, Rebecca Burmster, Richard Chandler, Kim Chidester, Keith Cummins, Helen Donahue, Ginger Edmiston, Donald Harland, Pedro Hernandez, Sally Herndon, Julie Howell, Paul Kearns, Guy Lemke, Katherine Long, Kimberly Moore, Bonnie Pearson, Silke Rible, Audrey Rudisill, Gregg Stave, Jennifer Surface, Sherron Teal, Lucy Thompson, Tara True, Joe Vetter, Fern Webb, Kathleen White

Thank you to our Champions:

Frank Amend, Mary Mel Amend, Jeanette Avery, Mary Kay Ballasiotes, Michelle Ballasiotes, Ashley Bell, Michael Butler, Carolina Collins, Cassidy Collins, Jennifer Collins, Diana Cook, Dana Davis, Yolanda Dickerson, Neil Dorsey, Michele Duncan, Elizabeth Evans, Roxanna Evans, Zoe Gabrielson, Amanda Hodges, David Huang, Sarah Jacobson, Monya James, Dianne Jinwright, Kacie Kennedy, Valerie King, Nigel Mackman, Bill Malanowski, Dawn McCrumb, Dawn Moore, Peg O’Connell, Tracey Perry, Oscar Revilla, Kristen Riddle, Barbara Robless, Judd Rupp, Eric Sanchez, Robert Schechner, Pam Seamans, Shannon Smith, Lee Storrow, James Thomas, Paisley Tuffile-Payton, Kirsten Unrue, Betsy Vetter, Rosie Vetter, Marie Welch

While we have more to do when our legislators convene in 2015, this in no way negates all of the fabulous achievements we have made this year.  We look forward to counting on you to continue with us as we work for positive change in our great Tarheel State.

Thank you – for lending us your voice, and for being the Cure!

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The FDA and New Tobacco Products

The FDA is accepting comments on its proposed deeming rules to cover new tobacco products. The rule proposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to regulate electronic cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.  The AHA believes it is a good first step, but it doesn't go far enough to protect young people.  So, we are asking our advocates to submit comments to the FDA urging them to strengthen the regulation.

We know that the FDA pays close attention to the number of comments it receives. Their decision to extend the comment period (despite the objections of the public health community) was directly linked to the thousands of requests they received to delay the comment period. 

So, have you sent the FDA your comments?  This is a great opportunity to let the FDA know what you are seeing in your communities.  We have made it easy for you to submit, simply click here:

A 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics reported youth exposure to television advertising for electronic cigarettes increased by 256 percent from 2011 to 2013, exposing 24 million U.S. kids to these ads. The researchers predicted that “if current trends in e-cigarette television advertising continue, awareness and use of e-cigarettes are likely to increase among youth and young adults.”  The study showed that the North Carolina Triad area had the most e-cigarette television ad exposure in the United States, as measured by target ratings points compiled by research firm Nielsen. There were 770 e-cigarette television ads in the Triad during the study's time period. 

With bright, colorful packaging and fruit and candy flavorings that appeal to children, it’s no surprise there has been a rapid increase in youth use of cigars and e-cigarettes. Help us tell FDA that stronger regulations are needed to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco.  Let the FDA know what you are seeing – tell them your story.

Do you need more information?  Please contact Betsy Vetter, Sr. Director of Government Relations ( 

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Remembering the Heart of a Friend

Last week, NC said good-bye to freshman lawmaker, Representative Jim Fulghum (R-Wake).  He passed away on July 19th after a short battle with cancer, at the age of 70.  Representative Fulghum was a retired neurosurgeon and his medical experience was a true asset to the NC General Assembly. 

During his short time in the General Assembly, Representative Fulghum was a champion for health issues.  The first legislation that he sponsored was a top priority for the American Heart Association, HB 105: Require Pulse Oximetry Newborn Screening companion bill to SB 98, which was signed into law on May 8, 2013.   He was also the lead sponsor for HB 827: Designate Primary Stroke Centers companion bill to SB 456 which was also signed by the Governor on the same day as the pulse oximetry screening law.  In addition, Representative Fulghum worked closely with tobacco control advocates both in 2013 and 2014 to ensure that e-cigarette/vapor products legislation defined these new products as a tobacco product, ensuring that these products would be included in NC’s tobacco-free policies, especially in our schools.

The NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee recognized Representative Jim Fulghum for his commitment to strong public health policies of importance to the AHA on December 14, 2013.  Committee member, Peg O’Connell presented him with the NC AHA’s Heart of a Friend Award.  We all were looking forward to continuing our work with Representative Fulghum for years to come. 

“I can hardly believe that he has left us,” said Betsy Vetter, Sr. Government Relations Director.  “Representative Fulghum quickly distinguished himself as a true leader in the legislature.  It was such a pleasure to work with him on issues.  He was very thoughtful and knowledgeable.  North Carolina will miss him greatly.”

The AHA extends our heartfelt sympathies to the Fulghum family.  We have lost a health-hero. 

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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 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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