American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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We're Thankful... For You

It has been an incredibly exciting year in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, full of policy advancement and growth in our You’re the Cure network. None of our success could have happened without the work of you, our many dedicated advocates.

We are thankful for you.

Our DC advocates worked hard and accomplished two major policy wins so far this year: a tobacco funding policy that went into effect as of October 1, as well as a Worksite Wellness healthy vending and procurement policy win. These deserve major congratulations! As our year progresses, we know without a doubt we will be able to achieve even more success across our affiliate.

We are thankful for you.

Advocates and staff have been working together at Heart Walks across the affiliate to recruit new You’re the Cure members, and educate walkers on our policy issues for this year. Since July 1, we have seen our You’re the Cure network grow by over 5,000 new advocates who have been adding their voice to our campaigns to help us make even more progress this year. We would like to share a very large "thank you" with all of our advocates who joined us early in the morning to help us accomplish this growth!

We are thankful for you.

In August, we reached out to our advocates to participate in our August Recess activity and help deliver lunch bags with puzzle pieces to their federal legislators in support of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This policy’s aim of protecting strong nutrition standards for school meals was just one of many opportunities for advocates to get to know their advocacy staff and other advocates, as well as their legislators, on a deeper level while completing offline actions – actions which have resulted in a direct, positive impact on their communities.

We are thankful for you.

Recently we were able to offer a virtual Volunteer Summit in AHA offices across the nation, which brought together high level volunteers, board members, and staff to discuss the new Community Plan 2.0. We had four volunteers attend. Tracey Perry shared her experience: "The Volunteer Summit was an excellent opportunity to review the Community Plan 2.0 and National Agenda of AHA. It was then very helpful to review our local Charlotte Market and see how our Health Assessment compared. We discussed ways to increase engagement of volunteers, increase prospects, and focus on the three top Health Priorities for 2015.

We are thankful for you.

Nothing causes our hearts to sing more than when an advocate has that feeling of making a true difference. Ginnie Gick summed up one of her experiences as an advocate. "Being able to participate in the Rally for Medical Research on Capitol Hill really brought home the importance of advocating for the funding that is so necessary to support the fight against heart disease and stroke. I met so many incredible people who are struggling with the challenge to live a normal life in spite of their risk or illness, and every one of us deserves the opportunity to ask for and receive the benefit of advancements in medicine."

We are thankful for you.

Over the next several months, our states will begin their new 2015 sessions and there will be a host of new opportunities to amplify your voice through advocacy. Without your passion and involvement, the American Heart Association would not be where we are in the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, passing policy that keeps communities healthy.

Thanksgiving is why.

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We Want Healthier Kids: Contact the SC Board of Education

Recently, we shared with you information about some initiatives we are working on regarding the Smart Snacks policy within our state education system. We need your help!

The South Carolina Board of Education (SBE) is accepting public comments regarding zero fundraising exemptions until 5pm on November 24. We are asking advocates to send written comments urging the SBE to support ZERO fundraising exemptions during the school day. Below are talking points and instructions for where to send your comments.

All comments should be addressed to Dr. Juanita Bowens-Seabrook, , Office of Nutrition Programs, SC Department of Education. Additionally, we’d like to ask you to include your South Carolina Board of Education representative. Their contact information can be found here or below. Please let Kim Chidester know when you have taken action.

Here are some talking points to help you craft your message:

  • Healthy fundraisers are good for kids’ health.
  • Parents support healthy food in schools.
  • The board is responsible for ensuring that students are able to perform at their best academically, which includes ensuring a healthy learning environment. Healthy kids are better students, so there should be no exceptions for fundraisers.
  • Students may need time to adjust to healthier options, but they will, and there are examples of schools that have already done this successfully. The board should base its decision on the best interest of students, and allowing zero exemptions for fundraisers is what is best for children’s health.
  • Three out of four parents in South Carolina say that all food in schools should be healthy. Just like schools follow nutrition standards for meals and snacks, they should also follow them for fundraisers so that students have a consistent message from the classroom to the cafeteria throughout the school day. This reinforces the healthy habits that parents are trying to instill at home. We will not undermine parents’ efforts to raise healthy children.
  • Students need to be physically active and eat nutritious foods to maintain good health. This cannot be achieved by physical activity alone. Kids spend more time in school than anywhere else outside of their homes and consume up to half of their daily calories during the school day. The food available to students at school through fundraisers, meals, and snacks play a major role in their overall health.

Here is the contact information for the South Carolina Board of Education:

1. Mr. Barry Bolen, Chair: 11th Circuit (Edgefield, Lexington, McCormick, Saluda)
133 Congaree Park Dr, West Columbia, 29169

2. Dr. Traci Young Cooper, Chair-Elect: 5th Circuit (Kershaw, Richland)
120 Stonebrook Dr, Blythewood, 29016

3. Dr. Samuel Alston: 1st Circuit (Calhoun, Dorchester, Orangeburg)
251 Myers Lane, St. Matthews, 29135

4. Mr. Jim Griffith: 2nd Circuit (Aiken, Bamberg, Barnwell)
144 Highland Reserve Ct, Aiken, 29803

5. Mrs. Lonzena Harry: 3rd Circuit (Clarendon, Lee, Sumter, Williamsburg)
352 Calvary Church Rd, Bishopville, 29010

6. Dr. David Blackmon:  4th Circuit (Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Marlboro)
1106 Pinehurst Dr, Hartsville, 29550

7. Mr. James Stroman: 6th Circuit (Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster)
1018 Stroman Drive, Chester, 29706

8. Mr. Neil Willis: 7th Circuit (Cherokee, Spartanburg)
168 Clear Creek Dr, Boiling Springs, 29316

9. Dr. Ivan Randolph: 8th Circuit (Abbeville, Greenwood, Laurens, Newberry)
250 Noble Estate, Abbeville, 29620

10. Mr. Larry Kobrovsky: 9th Circuit (Berkeley, Charleston)
402 Sea Breeze Ln, Sullivans Island, 29482

11. Mr. Jeff Kubu: 10th Circuit (Anderson, Oconee)
109 Buttercup Trail, Anderson, 29621

12. Mr. Tom Ewart: 12th Circuit (Florence, Marion)
1208 McIntosh Woods Road, Florence, 29501

13. Dr. Danny Varat: 13th Circuit (Greenville, Pickens)
40 Douglas Dr, Greenville, 29605

14. Dr. Rhonda Edwards: 14th Circuit (Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, Jasper)
22 Maple St., Ridgeland, 29936

15. Dr. Thomas Shortt: 15th Circuit (Georgetown, Horry)
85 Bonnyneck Dr, Georgetown, 29440

16. Mr. John Rampey: 16th Circuit (Union, York)
307 Brookside Dr, Union, 29379

17. Mr. Michael Brenan:  Governor's Appointee [Serves at the will of the Governor]
1215 Jennings Ct, Columbia, 29204

Read more here about the Smart Snacks policy, and the work we are doing to ensure our kids eat healthier across the state. And don’t forget: contact Kim Chidester once you have sent off your comments!

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Richard Benson

Richard Benson, MD/PhD, District of Columbia

“I’m looking at the man in the mirror.” When it comes to preventing heart disease and stroke, the #1 and #4 most common causes of death in the US, respectively, I think of those famous and poignant words by the late great Michael Jackson many years ago. As a neurologist who has dedicated his life to diagnosing, treating and preventing strokes, I am often faced with the unenviable job of having to tell some individual or family member that they or someone that they love has suffered a stroke. The largest tragedy of this unrehearsed, but all too common narrative is having to explain that heart disease and stroke are largely preventable diseases.

Surprisingly, although many people have some knowledge of these common killers, they have ignored their own health or personal responsibility related to the development and/or treatment of these diseases.

As a physician working in an acute care hospital, I automatically start the complex series of ruminations, studies, and medications that any well trained doctor makes when faced with either of these life or death situations, regardless of person, situation, or insurance status. But as a human being and a person of faith, my heart bleeds as I think, “if only this person had had a better diet, exercised more, decreased his salt intake, took her medication, visited his doctor, then perhaps this could have been prevented.” Although far from perfect, health care providers have standards of training and care that we must uphold. But as a society, the most important weapons in the fight against these two common killers (e.g. eating right, exercising, and seeing your doctor regularly) are often left abandoned.

The most effective way to decrease the numbers of people suffering from heart disease and stroke, is for “the man in the mirror to make that change” in his/her lifestyle. You are the cure!



Dr. Richard Benson (left) with Michelle Williams (formally from Destiny’s Child) and Dr. Rani Whitfield (the hip hop doc), both National Power To End Stroke Ambassadors

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Help Keep Our Children Healthy!

As the American Heart Association’s South Carolina advocacy network, we’re working to ensure we build healthier lives for everyone – especially our kids.  Thank you for joining us in the fight to build a healthier generation.  In our state, we have a long way to go to make sure we keep unhealthy fundraisers like the sale of candy bars, pizza and donuts out of our kids’ schools.  We all know that healthy kids are better students. Currently, South Carolina ranks 2nd in childhood obesity for children ages 10-17.  The last thing our kids need is more junk food at school that will distract them from making healthy choices and focusing on what matters most: learning!

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) improved guidelines for snack foods and beverages sold in schools to make sure our kids have more access to healthy options. State agencies now have to decide how often they will apply these nutrition standards on an infrequent basis to food-related fundraisers during the school day. The SC State Board of Education (SBE) has proposed a rule that would allow unhealthy fundraisers during the school day to occur up to 90 days per school per year. That is exactly half of the 180 day school year, ignoring the rule guidance of allowing infrequent fundraisers. However, 27 other states, 8 of them Southern states, have opted for no exemptions

We are working right now to make changes through policy focused on this issue.  If we don’t take action for our kids’ future now, it will cost us dearly—up to $8 billion in projected health costs.  Our students are at risk for cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses before they even graduate from high school.

The last thing they need is more junk food at school that will distract them from making healthy choices and focusing on their classes. Schools need to provide an atmosphere that helps our kids learn to make good, healthy choices. 

We thank you, our South Carolina You’re the Cure network, for joining us as we move forward to change this policy for our children, and for our state.

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Trick or Treat?

Candy Corn, Gummy Bears, Peanut Butter Cups, Swedish Fish, Candy Bar, Bubblegum and Cotton Candy… These may sound like treats the neighborhood kids are hoping to pick up when they go trick-or-treating later this month, but they’re actually the tricks used by companies to hook our kids on nicotine. These are flavors of e-cigarette liquid available for purchase today.

With alluring flavors like those and a dramatic increase in youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising, the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among youth shouldn’t come as a surprise. Still, it raises concerns. Strong regulations are needed to keep these tobacco products out of the hands of children. We’ve asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and we’re still waiting for them to act.

Meanwhile, CDC launched this week their #20Million Memorial. 20 million people have died from smoking-related illnesses since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health. Has smoking affected you and your family? Check out this moving online memorial, then share your story or honor loved ones lost too soon with the hashtag #20Million.  

AHA staff and volunteers across the country are preparing to fight the tobacco epidemic in upcoming state legislative sessions. They’ll ask for state funding for tobacco prevention programs and for increased tobacco taxes, a proven deterrent for youth smoking.

This Halloween, don’t let our kids continue to get tricked by the tobacco companies. Help end the tobacco epidemic for good. To amplify our message with lawmakers, ask friends and family members to join us, then watch your inbox for opportunities to act!  

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Find Who Cares Like You Do

You care about helping Americans live healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  We know you care because you are a You’re the Cure Advocate, supporting our efforts to change policies that impact this.

But we desperately need more like you – people willing to take simple actions to help drive the messages to legislators.  We’re hoping you know a few you can inspire for us.  Here are a few easy things you could do:

  • Ask your friends and family to be active advocates – they probably care as much as you do, and many will have stories of their own that help them understand how critical our mission is to saving lives. Send them to to join.
  • Forward our emails to your contacts and tell people how important this is to you.  Ask them to help.
  • Use the sharing buttons that appear on the webpage after you’ve taken action on each of our alerts to post to social media and engage your own following to be part of the solution.
  • Know a small (or larger) group you could present to, to invite their participation?  This could be a huge help!  Faith groups, community groups, social clubs, and parents groups are all good places to start. We have tools and materials to make it easy, and you earn credit as an advocate for doing a ‘recruitment event’ for us.  It can be as informal as you like, and we can help prepare you.  Call or email any AHA Advocate Contact in your state to get connected with staff who can help.
  • Hold a House Party to introduce our mission to friends and family, or any group you’re part of, and get them on board.  It’s easy and fun, and a very meaningful way to make sure your own people are part of the network.  See all the scoop on how here
  • Know a company, organization, church, or alliance whose members or employees might care?  All they’d have to do is circulate a quick invitation from us to be part of the cure.  If you have a contact there and can open the door for us to tailor an invitation and get it out to their people, that could be a big recruitment win! 

You can contact us for guidance on any of these, and do be sure to tell us when you’re doing something to help recruit. (Here’s the link again to find AHA contacts in your state.)  It’s important we know how we’re growing our network, and we want to be sure your record reflects your work with us.

Right now we’re working hard to position ourselves for a successful policy session, and need to be sure our advocate network is strong and ready.  Every single voice is needed to make sure the messages are heard by our lawmakers.

Help us find other people who care like you do. It could mean all the difference when the time comes and we have to pull out the stops to help a bill pass.



<photo credit to Eneas on Flickr>  


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Joye Mullis

Joye Mullis, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

As with all children, my son’s story began well before his birth.  I had a fairly easy pregnancy, tainted by a couple of scares early on, but then all appeared well at my 20-week ultrasound. 

I was healthy.  Baby was healthy.  Life was good.

At 28 weeks, I had a second ultrasound to check on the baby’s growth and that sent my husband, Jeramie, and me into a fast-moving downward spiral of more ultrasounds, stress tests, and worries.  By the time our son, Ethan, was born on March 8th, 2009, I’d had a total of five ultrasounds, all attempting to diagnose what would be two birth defects – one urological in nature and one orthopedic.

“But...” an OB assured us, “...all of his major organs are healthy and strong!”

However, about eight hours after Ethan’s birth we learned that the doctor was not completely right.  After struggling to nurse and being an overall quiet newborn - two major red flags that weren’t apparent to us first-time parents - it was discovered that Ethan had also been born with a critical congenital heart defect known as Pulmonary Atresia.

My post-partum nurse was bringing Ethan back to our room from his newborn screening when she noticed that “he just didn’t look right”.  She wheeled him back into the nursery, hooked him up to a pulse oximeter, and found that his oxygen saturation level was in the mid-60s.  That discovery began a flurry of activity, unbeknownst to us, which culminated in someone coming to our room hours later to tell us about the broken heart of our brand new son.

Ethan was rushed to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina where he stayed for a total of nine and a half weeks, and where he underwent his first open-heart surgery at just three days old.  He had a handful of surgeries during that time – one of which was to implant a permanent pacemaker – and he also survived full cardiac and pulmonary arrest.

Over five and a half years, and three open heart surgeries later, Ethan is now thriving! His story is that of strength and resilience.  It's a story about rising above the brokenness and turning something so tragic into something so beautiful. It has taken a lot of work to get Ethan where he is today, and it all began with an observant nurse and a sticky light.  One simple test saved my son’s life and could do the same for countless others.

I’ve been known to say that the diagnosis of Ethan’s heart defect didn’t just break one heart – it broke three.  While Pulse Ox screening can’t take away the heartache of surgeries and complications, it can be the start of a lifetime of success for a baby born with a congenital heart defect.  It was for Ethan, and every baby born in North Carolina deserves that same start. 





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Come and help grow Grassroots at our fall Heart Walks!

Heart Walk is a wonderful opportunity to help make walkers aware of our important advocacy efforts and engage them in the You're the Cure grassroots network. We need your help manning our You're the Cure booths at these events! Take a look at the full list of Heart Walk events below and let us know if you can help.

RSVP to come work a booth with us! 

Charleston Heart Walk: Saturday, September 27 at Liberty Square, 340 Concord St, Charleston, downtown next to the SC Aquarium
Pee Dee (Florence) Heart Walk: Saturday, October 18 at Florence-Darlington Technical College
Waccamaw (Myrtle Beach) Heart Walk: Saturday, October 18 at Broadway at the Beach, 1325 Celebrity Cir

Volunteer to help grow grassroots at a Heart Walk near you! Send a quick email to let me know you plan to come help us recruit!

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What Is Your Why?

As you may know, the American Heart Association has kicked off our new "Life is Why" campaign. We know there are many reasons "why" you are passionate, and we’d like to know what the reasons are behind your "why!"

We are running a social media campaign focused on this question throughout the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, and would love for you to include your story via Facebook (#lifeiswhy), Instagram (@heartmaa) or Twitter (@midatlnticheart). We want to hear and see the motivation for your passion, so please join us by sharing your Why today!

What’s OUR Why?

At the August Mid-Atlantic Affiliate’s All Staff meeting, your Government Relations team was awarded the "Greatest Health Impact" award.  What does this mean? It means that your Government Relations team has most positively impacted the lives of the residents of our Affiliate through our accomplishment of passing public policy (like the Pulse Oximetry bill in North Carolina, or CPR in Schools legislation in Virginia and Maryland) and improving the health of our local communities. 

Cathleen Grzesiek, Vice President of Government Relations for the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate, said "This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our government relations directors, grassroots directors, and all of our volunteers over the past year.  Our policy success couldn’t happen without each of them, and together, we are making a huge impact on health across the Mid-Atlantic.  Our team embodies the idea that ‘making a difference is why.’"

We could not have done this without the help of you, our You’re the Cure family!

While at times the policy process can be labored, this just proves that your resolute determination and passion have made a true difference all across the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.

So today, it is with pleasure that we share that YOU are our why, and we hope that you will share your why with us!

You are invaluable to us, and we are thankful for you and for the great impact you have made on the health of your local and regional communities.

Thank you!

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We've Come So Far Because of You, South Carolina!

The 2014 Legislative Session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation while providing us room to continue in 2015.

Senate Bill 1094: School Nutrition Guidelines
This would have required stronger nutritional guidelines for competitive foods sold on school grounds during afterschool hours. Competitive foods include foods sold in vending machines, snack stores, and a la carte items in school cafeterias. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the Senate Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full Senate once the bill was placed on the Senate calendar.

Senate Bill 160: CPR in Schools
This would have required all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED awareness as part of the already required high school health education class. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the House Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full House once the bill was placed on the House calendar.

This issue continues to be vital to residents of South Carolina, even during the summer months when the legislature is not in session. Please email your elected officials today and let them know you support CPR in schools.

Tobacco Control Funding
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $8 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories
Three more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, joining 55 other South Carolina municipalities, for a total of 58 cities/counties, covering 39% of the state's population!

As part of the You're the Cure team, you've helped us make GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2015 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all you do. You are our hero.

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