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Wilda Evans Indiana

Wilda Evans realized the importance of heart health as a young girl as she watched her father suffer a series of heart attacks five years apart.  “When my father was in his 70s, the doctors told him he had the body of a 50-year old. He was fit and healthy, except for his heart” Evans said.  “My mantra became: There are a lot of things that I may not be able to control regarding my health, due to genetics and the environment, but there are things I can do so that I’m not increasing my risk. Eating healthy, diet, exercise, not smoking.”

Evans began supporting the American Heart Association during the years following her father’s first heart attack and has continued to advocate for the organization over the years. She has participated in the Indianapolis Heart Walk almost since the event’s inception 25 years ago.  “My mom also had heart failure and a series of strokes, and her father died of a massive stroke the week before I was born. I’ve also had some cousins who have died too young,” she said of her family history of heart disease and stroke.

Most recently, Evans’ family dealt with a stroke two years ago. Evans’ son-in-law was brushing his teeth when he became disoriented and unable to speak. Fortunately, Evans’ daughter was in the next room and immediately recognized he was having a stroke. Within 30 minutes, he was being treated with clot-busting drugs at the hospital.

“There have been so many strides and advancements over the years, and I continue to support the AHA because of the valuable work being done. Without support, there would be less funding for research and education. The upcoming generations need to know that it’s important to keep their hearts healthy.”

Yolanda Dickerson, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

I am the product of my village.  When I received the AHA Survivor Advocate of the Year award in DC two years ago, I knew it was really not about me. The award is a culmination of those who invested in me and what I’ve learned up to this point. For more than 11 years now I have raised money for heart walks, volunteered for American Heart Association (AHA) in booths at various events, and been a guest speaker to parents, survivors and even AHA staff.  I have helped train other advocates, spoken to countless legislators, and been featured in Public Service Announcements, but these things didn’t start with me.

My advocacy story started with my mother who encouraged all four of her children to not let adversity stop their dreams and to help others along the way.  I learned the power of resolve in the face of limitations from my brother Darrell; of working smart (not hard) from my brother Rodney; and to stay focused on family from both my younger brother Willie and Cousin Charles. My daughter, Ilana, has taught me the benefits of (sometimes) being silly and enjoying the moment.

These lessons have been honed and sharpened by AHA/YTC staff and volunteers through trainings and practice sessions. How could I begin to thank Sloan Garner, Betsy Vetter, Kacie Kennedy all the other AHA/YTC folks who have put time, trust, and support in my success as an advocate and as a person. Every survivor, caretaker, and medical provider I meet leaves their mark and positive influence on my resolve to continue volunteering. I can’t run cross country, but I can effect change that reaches beyond my community one volunteer effort at a time.

 To all those named and unnamed members of my ‘village’ I say thank you and I will continue to honor you by using my abilities to help others.

 Yolanda Dickerson, You’re the Cure Survivor-Volunteer-Advocate

 

Yuki Courtland is an advocate.  She sees something wrong in her world and pushes to make the necessary change to help.  As the chair of our Advocacy Committee in New York City, she has been leading the way to help make sure every student, regardless of where they go to school, learn how to embrace physical activity.  Thanks to her efforts, NYC schools are on their way to making significant improvements. 

Recent successes include the passage of the new PE Reporting Law which will serve to create more transparency around our schools' PE programs beginning in August when the first report card is issued.  Additionally, thanks to Yuki's work with the Advocacy Committee, Mayor de Blasio is now pledging to dedicate significant dollars in the FY 17 budget. 

Her work isn't over yet.  But we are lucky to have her tireless commitment to help make NYC a healthier place to live!