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Giving Thanks for a Great Year!

As fall draws to a close, we are taking the time to thank all of our volunteers and celebrating a great year. Together, You’re the Cure advocates, like you, successfully advocated for heart healthy and stroke smart policies in their communities and states. We could not achieve the positive change in our communities without each and everyone of you. We are truly thankful for all that you do!

Below are just a few of the accomplishments we are thankful for this year: 

 

  1. Six new states require CPR as a graduation requirement. That means over 1.1 million students will be trained in life-saving CPR every year! With your help, we can add even more states to this list!
  2. Twelve new states require newborn screening for congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital. The earlier we can detect an issue with these little hearts, the better chances at a healthy life. Thirty-two states now require this screening.
  3. A half-a-dozen states increased funding for heart disease and stroke related programs.
  4. Advocates from all over the country made their voice heard in Washington D.C. on issues from more physical education in school to increasing funding for more heart and stroke research.

Once again, thank you for all the work you have done this year and for years to come! We cannot wait to see what the next 12 months brings us, but with your help, we know we will improve the lives of heart and stroke patients across the country.

Want to learn more about what we do? Check out the video below and share it with others!

(Please visit the site to view this video)

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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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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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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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