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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 www.yourethecure.org 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 Help Us Grow Grassroots at Fall Heart Walks in VA or DC!

Heart Walk is an opportunity to come play with us, help make walkers aware of our 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 to spread the message! Take a look at the full list of Heart Walk events in Virginia and let us know if you can help.

RSVP to come work a booth with us!

  • Richmond Heart Walk: Saturday, October 11 at West Creek Parkway, 12575 West Creek Pkwy; volunteers needed 8:30 am - 1:00 pm
  • Charlottesville Heart Walk: Saturday, October 18 at UVA Research Park, 1000 Research Park Blvd, parking lot behind Town Center One; volunteers needed 8:30 - 12:00pm
  • Peninsula Heart Walk: Saturday, October 18 at Peninsula Town Center, 4410 Claiborne Sq East, Hampton; volunteers needed 7:30 am - 11:30 am
  • Roanoke Heart Walk: Saturday, October 18 at Rivers Edge Park South; volunteers needed 8;30 am - 12:00 pm
  • South Hampton Roads Heart Walk: Saturday, October 25 at Mt. Trashmore; volunteers needed 8:30 am - 12:00pm
  • Greater Washington Region Heart Walk: Saturday, November 8 at National Mall, between 9th & 12th Sts and Madison & Jefferson Aves; volunteers needed 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

We'll have fun: volunteer for a You're the Cure booth to help grow grassroots at a Heart Walk near you! Send a quick email to let us know you plan to come help us recruit!

Want to join or captain a Heart Walk team instead? It's easy! CLICK HERE to pick an event and get signed up to help raise critical dollars that help reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke.

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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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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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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 www.heart.org/healthierkids.  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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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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Be One In A Million

Million Hearts is an answer. Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the country and the #1 killer of women.  But effective community CVD prevention interventions have been underutilized due to a lack of a coordinated national effort.  We must do something to change this, but what could be big enough?

Million Hearts is a national initiative by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that has set an ambitious goal to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Million Hearts aims to prevent heart disease and stroke by:

  • Improving access to effective care.
  • Improving the quality of care.
  • Focusing clinical attention on the prevention of heart attack and stroke.
  • Activating the public to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.
  • Improving the prescription and adherence to appropriate medications.

Each year there are approximately 2 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States. The campaign is expected to produce a 10 percent reduction in the rate of acute cardiovascular events each year for 5 years resulting in one million heart attack and strokes prevented.

The AHA applauds the launch of Million Hearts and is grateful for the opportunities we have been provided to help inform, shape, and support the initiative. We look forward to joining and partnering with the HHS in implementing this initiative, which has the potential to advance the mission and work of the AHA dramatically and to help us achieve our ambitious 2020 Health Impact Goal.

This initiative will focus, coordinate, and enhance cardiovascular disease prevention activities across the public and private sectors in an unprecedented effort to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 and demonstrate to all that improving the health system can save lives.

Will you be one in a million?  Be one who makes the commitment to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle….do your part to live a life free of heart disease and stroke. 

Watch your inbox for our action requests to support You’re the Cure policy efforts around healthy living and prevention.  Open and click to help more of the million get there!

 

Thanks to volunteer writer/YTC advocate Karen Wiggins, for help developing this blog post.

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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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