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Bill Owen is a You're the Cure Advocate Extraordinaire!

Bill became an American Heart Association volunteer when he joined You’re the Cure in September 2013 after signing an online petition asking the city council members and mayor of Irving to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. Bill grew up in Irving, graduated from Irving High school (class of ’76), and now lives there with his family, making the smoke-free issue close to his home and heart.

However, Bill’s main motivation for advocating on behalf of the American Heart Association comes from the fact that he “comes from a family that has lost too many members to preventable heart disease.” Bill’s “goal is to help other families avoid that pain through greater awareness!”

In April 2014, Bill  wrote a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News, urging the city council and mayor of Irving to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. His letter exposed the truth about ventilation systems and their inability to remove the toxins from secondhand smoke.

In May 2014, Bill accepted the American Stroke Month proclamation on behalf of the American Heart Association, speaking before the city council and Mayor Van Duyne about using the F.A.S.T acronym to recognize a stroke and the need for quick treatment in the event of a stroke.

He also volunteered at the Taste of Dallas event in July gathering over 30 petition card signatures showing support for the smoke-free effort in Irving and will volunteer for the upcoming Heart Walk in Dallas, again helping gather more petition signatures.

Bill also serves on the AHA’s Smoke-Free Leadership Council, working with Advocacy staff and other AHA volunteer leaders across the state of Texas working towards the passage of a state-wide smoke-free law.

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Waxahachie Goes Smoke-Free!

On August 18th the City of Waxahachie passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance by a 4-1 vote.  The smoke-free ordinance will remove harmful secondhand smoke from all public workplaces including restaurants and bars and makes Waxahachie the 39th Smoke-Free City in Texas!

The new law will go into effect on September 18th.  American Heart Association volunteers and staff worked over the past few months to engage the public and City Council on smoke-free workplaces.  Their hard work resulted in numerous visits with Council members, public testimony and Council meetings and hundreds of postcard and photo petitions delivered to City Hall. 

Over 200 people were represented in 60 pages of photo petitions throughout the community posing with “I Support a Smoke-Free Community” posters.  Over 140 new You’re the Cure volunteers were recruited, and we presented over 56 smoke-free cards on the night of the vote.

Let us know what city you want to be the next to go Smoke-Free in Texas!

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Advocates Visit Congressional Offices, Promote Healthy School Meals

You’re the Cure Advocates from throughout Texas utilized the August Congressional break to advocate for reauthorization of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.” Volunteers visited district offices to share the message that new nutrition standards ARE working and should not be delayed or weakened.

Houston Grassroots Action Team Chair Bill Clayton hosted a group of advocates at his downtown office, where they reviewed the materials, discussed advocacy 101 and practiced talking points before heading out.  Together, they visited the offices of Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressman John Culberson.

The team delivered the message to Congress that healthy school meals ‘fit’ into a successful school day for kids- and that we’re ‘puzzled’ by efforts to weaken or delay the important nutrition standards.  To help make this point, the advocates delivered a lunch bag of puzzle pieces, 4 of which fit together to display a healthy school meal and 1 showing unhealthy food that doesn’t fit. 

Advocates also visited the offices of Congressman John Carter in Round Rock and Congresswoman Kay Granger in Fort Worth.

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Texas Heart Walks Coming to a City Near You

Heart Walk season is upon us and you are invited to join us at Heart Walks across Texas.  Whether you want to create a team and help fundraise or volunteer on the day of the event, we need your help!

Visit www.heartwalk.org to find your closest Heart Walk and email brian.bowser@heart.org about volunteer opportunities. 

Lace up your sneakers and we’ll see you out there!

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Newborn Screenings Now in Effect in TX

Because of the hard work of advocates like you, all newborns in Texas will now be screened for critical congenital heart defects before leaving the hospital!

Starting last week a simple procedure called pulse-oximetry will be performed on all newborns before they leave the hospital. It’s quick and painless, and most importantly, it can save lives. Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect in the United States, and early detection and treatment are crucial.

Please click here and thank Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey and Health & Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek for implementing this life-saving law in Texas!

Wider use of pulse-oximetry could help ensure that more than 90% of heart defects are detected. Lives have already been saved as a result of these screenings. Recently in New Jersey a newborn’s life was saved just hours after their law took effect!

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Why I Advocate for Heart, by April Wade Peters

I’m excited to share my personal journey of advocating for heart, which ultimately led to AED machines being placed at my workplace. It began in 1998 when my husband learned he had a heart murmur and kept tabs on it via an annual EKG. However things worsened and his bicuspid aortic valve was weakened causing aortic regurgitation (AVR) and endocarditis, a serious infection in his heart.

Life was fairly normal until February of 2013 when he thought he was run down by allergies, very common for anyone living in Central Texas. Unfortunately, it was his heart. 

On May 22nd of 2013 he had open-heart surgery where his aortic valve was replaced by bovine tissue. "Holy Cow" is said in our household daily! He is recovering well and feels better with each day. This event is the scariest thing we've ever been though in our lives.

This has led me to become a strong advocate for the American Heart Association. I joined the AHA’s Passion Committee to promote physical activity, research and awareness for leading healthier lives.

In February 2014, my mission was for all our work associates to be dressed in red for National Wear Red Day. Thanks to the support of my husband and many work colleagues, our office shined in red that day! We hosted a staff get-together where I shared our story and University of Texas Volleyball Coach Salima Rockwell shared her personal survivor story with our team.

This event lead to an engaged Q&A session where a colleague discussed how an AED machine could have saved the life of a dear friend. His question sparked a project in our team immediately.  From there we made it our mission to get AEDs placed in and around our office. 

I’m thrilled to report, AED machines are now placed in our workplace creating an environment to treat sudden cardiac arrest. My vision is to continue to make an impact and be viewed as an active, engaged contributor in the heart health community.

This is just a small example of how one person sharing their voice can lead to big change.  I hope you will join me in being an advocate for heart health at your workplace, school, community, or wherever there may be a need!

This post was written by AHA volunteer and Passion Committee member April Wade Peters.

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Advocating for Change: July Smoke-Free Update

This month we have two exciting updates on local smoke-free efforts.  Wichita Falls passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance on June 17th and we are seeing great progress in Lubbock.

Wichita Falls

We are very excited to announce that the City of Wichita Falls passed a comprehensive ordinance on June 17th! Wichita Falls makes the 37th city in Texas to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance!

Mayor Glenn Barham, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Smith, Councilman Ben Hoover, and Councilman Brian Hooker all voted YES to a comprehensive ordinance that prohibits smoking in all restaurants and bars by 2016.  This is a great accomplishment for all 104,553 residents of Wichita Falls. 

The Smoke-Free Wichita Falls coalition spent many hours meeting with councilmembers, recruiting volunteers, and getting petition cards signed throughout the city.  Many members of the coalition including Mindy Giles, Glen Rabideau, Rachel Brown, and Jackie Bush testified at multiple City Council meetings to urge the Council to support a comprehensive ordinance. 

AHA volunteers sent out numerous letters, emails, and phone calls to the councilmembers. During the day of the vote AHA volunteers delivered over 250 petition cards from Wichita Falls residents supporting a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  There are now over 300 Wichita Falls residents in our You’re the Cure network!  Pictured are just some of the volunteers that attended the City Council meeting. 

Thank you to all the volunteers who made this possible.   Your hard work and dedication paid off.  It is because of your work that all Wichita Falls workers will be able to breathe smoke-free air by 2016! 

 

Lubbock

The West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition has been busy fighting for clean air!  On June 26th the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition made presentations during citizen’s comments about the public health impact of secondhand smoke exposure. 

AHA Executive Leadership Team member Dr. Scott Shurmur presented evidence to the City Council regarding a decrease in hospitalizations once a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance is in place.  Dr. Naidu Chekuru, Kavitha Selvan, Matthew Harris, and AHA Local Policy Manager Kelsey Bernstein all presented public health arguments to the Council. 

In addition to the presenters, there were over 20 hospitality industry workers in attendance!  In fact, during Matthew Harris’ testimony he asked all workers to please stand and get recognized.  This was incredibly impactful as it gave the City Council a great look at the lives that they will be directly saving if they pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  These workers as well as coalition members are pictured.  There were so many volunteers that attended that we could not fit them all in the picture!

The coalition has decided to present to Council again on July 10th.  This time they will be presenting the positive economic impact a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance will have in Lubbock.  Many business owners and workers will share their stories with the City Council during this time.  

 

 

Let us know about any smoke-free movement in your community!

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Ruthie Ewers: Smoke-Free Champion

When the City of Harlingen passed a strong smoke-free ordinance, it was like a dream come true for Texas volunteer Ruthie Ewers.  Ruthie has been the driving force behind the Harlingen smoke-free initiative that started more than 8 years ago.

Passionate about improving her community and the lives of its residents, she has been determined to protect Harlingen employees from secondhand smoke exposure since 2005.

A past president of the Cameron-Willacy County American Heart Association, Ruthie co-chaired the 2005 Smoke-Free Harlingen coalition. The coalition succeeded in expanding the Harlingen smoke-free ordinance to include most worksites, including restaurants. In February of 2014, Ruthie made it her mission to “finish the job” and ensure that ALL worksites in Harlingen would be smoke-free.

Three months later, the City passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that covers all worksites, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and gaming facilities. This public health win is due, in large part, to Ruthie’s grassroots efforts to educate and inform the mayor and city commissioners about the ordinance and to include all stakeholders in the process.

Ruthie has a reputation for rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done in her community. It’s not surprising to see a “Don’t Mess with Ruthie” bumper sticker every now and then when driving through town, and residents are lucky to have her on their side.

Harlingen residents and employees can now breathe easier thanks to Ruthie and all You’re the Cure advocates who stood up for the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Ruthie will continue working with the American Heart Association as a member of the Texas Smoke-free Leadership Council.

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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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Arkansas Advocate Stars in PSA for CPR in Schools

Arkansas volunteer and Miss Teen International, Haley Pontius, is on a mission to educate more people – especially her peers – about how CPR can save a life.  That is why she supports CPR in Schools legislation and recently starred in a Public Service Announcement. 

You can view the PSA video by clicking here.

In addition to her CPR advocacy Haley has volunteered for the American Heart Association since 2007 in a number of roles.  Haley was a summer intern at the Central Arkansas office in 2012 and has volunteered at several events, like the Heart Ball and Go Red For Women Luncheon.

Thanks to advocates like Haley 1 million students across the nation each school year will be trained in CPR, including students in states like Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas where advocates helped to pass CPR in Schools initiatives. 


 

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