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Rayme Elliott: A You're the Cure Advocate We are Thankful For

The Western States Affiliate is extremely grateful for California advocate Rayme Elliott, who decided to take action after tragedy struck her family.

Unfortunately, Rayme’s son Logan passed away at 14 months due to a cardiac arrest caused by a heart defect. Had Logan been screened for this condition, he might be still alive today which is why Rayme has devoted her time preventing this tragedy in other families. 

Rayme decided to share her experience with California legislators urging them to support a bill to require all newborns be screened for congenital heart defects and was featured in a powerful AHA piece supporting the California bill. In addition to getting her family involved, she also personally wrote and called Governor Brown for his support before and after the bill was signed into law. She was an instrumental force in the successful campaign to screen all newborns for heart defects.

“I’ve grown to call Rayme a dear friend and family of the Heart Association. Her story and feverous intent to change the lives of everyone she touches is awe-inspiring. After Rayme and Brett lost their beautiful baby boy, they fueled their life-altering experience into a powerful message to all. Rayme has worked tirelessly in her efforts for the American Heart Association.  She truly changes the lives of all those she encounters in hope that her efforts can help save the lives of babies like Logan,” said Lisa Dosch, Executive Director, AHA Santa Barbara Division.

Rayme has been involved with the AHA in Santa Barbara long before her days with advocacy. She chaired the 2011 Santa Barbara Heart Walk, she and her husband, Brett, were 2011 Heart Ball Passion Speakers, and her “Moms with Heart” Heart Walk team continues to be a top fundraising team.

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Mark Miller: A You're the Cure Advocate We are Thankful For

The Greater Southeast Affiliate is extremely thankful for their rock star Alabama advocate, Mark Miller. After being inspired by his daughter Mary Beth, who has congenital heart defect, Mark is a tireless advocate for Pulse Oximetry screening in newborns, which can detect these heart defects early in life. Right now, the AHA is working with the Alabama State Health Department to require hospitals to screen for heart defects in all newborns before they are discharged, and it’s because of advocates like Mark that the AHA is confident that this soon might become a reality. 

His advocacy efforts began by contacting various local legislators in order to educate them on the importance of this simple test in detecting heart defects in newborns. His initial outreach caused a ground swell and sparked a call to action from state leaders. Mark later served as a parent advocate representing the AHA on a stakeholder group formed by the Alabama Newborn Screening Advisory Committee. This group was brought together to create a plan on ensuring all Alabama newborns received this critical screening and drafted protocol around performing the test. The growing movement allowed Mark to become the event Chair of the Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Day at the state Capitol, where 20 volunteers urged their lawmakers to support preventative screenings.

“Mark has been an unrelenting force in our state’s pulse ox efforts. His love for his wife and daughter, sweet little Mary Beth Miller, drives his commitment and passion to fight heart disease in our youngest. Mark is an inspiration and a constant reminder of what one person can accomplish- he truly is a part of the cure,” said Melanie Bridgeforth, Alabama Government Relations Director. 

As this movement to screen all newborns for congenital heart defects continues in Alabama, Mark Miller will be on the front lines.

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Yolanda Dickerson: A You're the Cure Advocate We are Thankful For

The Mid-Atlantic Affiliate is thankful for Yolanda Dickerson, an advocate for over 10 years who is committed to reducing heart disease and stroke in her community. Her journey with the American Heart Association has led her to participate in five National Lobby Days in Washington D.C., as well as meeting with her elected officials at home. When she isn't meeting face-to-face with her representatives, Yolanda is taking action on You’re the Cure Action Alerts and writing letters in support of heart healthy and stroke smart policies to her local papers. Yolanda exemplifies the power a citizen can have to create change!

In addition, Yolanda has been an active member in AHA volunteer leadership. She is currently the Chair of the NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee, and previously served as Vice Chair for four-years. She also led the volunteer effort for the State Lobby Day event on multiple occasions.

“North Carolina is honored to have Yolanda Dickerson chair our statewide advocacy committee.  As a leader, she inspires others with her passion and dedication.  As a heart survivor, she knows the importance of our mission and she willingly does all that is asked of her, from meeting with the highest ranking elected officials to stuffing legislative packets.  As her staff partner, I am proud to have her at my side as we work together to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke,” said North Carolina Grassroots Director, Betsy Vetter.

Yolanda’s influence has even transferred to her daughter, who is now a You’re the Cure advocate! 

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Carrie McLeod: A You're the Cure Advocate We are Thankful For

As our ongoing series of You're the Cure Advocates that we are thankful for continues, the folks of the Midwest Affiliate cannot stop talking about one of their own volunteers: Carrie McLeod. They all collaborated to write the following about Carrie:

We call Carrie “the glue” that holds our advocacy network together in North Dakota.  Carrie is one of those advocates who steps up, often on short notice, to assist in our advocacy efforts on the national, state or local level.  Carrie is almost always the first advocate to take action on alerts.  She is our strongest advocate with key contacts with federal and state legislators, as well as departmental contacts in state government. Carrie has assisted us at Lobby Day, August recess activities, our Mission Lifeline initiative, and has also chaired our statewide Advocacy Committee. 

Carrie is taking an active role in implementing sodium reduction activities in North Dakota through the Million Hearts initiative.  She is also working with several communities on healthy living strategies.  She works with medical school students and does seminars on lifestyle issues to develop a new generation of MD’s who carry the AHA message.  We have accomplished so much in North Dakota, and Carrie has been with us through it all.  We are very thankful  that Carrie is our You’re the Cure Champion!

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Jim Bischoff: A You're the Cure Volunteer We are Thankful For

During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, AHA staff are taking time and recognizing a volunteer they are most thankful for. Melissa Brown, Grassroots Director for the Great Rivers Affiliate, wrote the following about a special volunteer in their area: Jim Bischoff of Ohio.

Jim is a longtime AHA and You’re the Cure advocate—the kind we all wish we had more of. Jim has participated in both state and federal lobby days for many years and regularly calls and meets with his lawmakers in-district on AHA issues. He is a former AHA affiliate board member and has served on his local board as well. Jim is an active member of our Ohio Field Representative team and on our stroke policy volunteer group.

Jim not only understands our legislative priorities, but also is a great asset in determining advocacy strategy.  He is always willing to give of his time – whether speaking to legislators, assisting with training of other advocates at Ohio Advocacy Days or local board meetings, media advocacy or recruiting volunteers.  Jim has been critical in advancing our issues by cultivating a deep relationship with not only his House and Senate members, but also with the current Senate president.  He recently gave compelling testimony on HB 427, the Ohio Stroke Bill.  In addition, he followed up with the Senate President to secure his support for quick movement of the bill once it reaches the Senate.

Jim was selected to attend the White House briefing on Cardiovascular Health on February 24.  He was selected based on his leadership role with Ohio Advocacy and through his support at many federal advocacy days.

Jim is personally a survivor of heart disease, which is what originally brought him to the organization in 1992.  Since then, his son-in-law experienced a stroke.  He takes these personal stories, with his knowledge of the political process, to advance our issues. It is his mission to assist the organization in making a difference in the lives and outcomes of others.  Through advocacy, he seeks to increase his impact, including sharing his experience and expertise with AHA Advocacy to bring others into the organization.

American Heart Association staff agree with Cresha Auck, Ohio Government Relations Director, when she says, “Jim is the face of the American Heart Association in Ohio. His knowledge, dedication and passion are unequaled.” 

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