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Candida Akins - Madison, Florida

Guest Blogger: Candida Akins

I gave birth at 32 weeks to two beautiful babies on July 3, 2005.  Shortly after giving birth, I became very ill. I stayed in the hospital for seven days with a high fever and high blood pressure, drenched with sweat. The doctors tested me for everything because they did not know what could possibly be wrong; they even thought I had hepatitis at one point because ALL of my blood work was abnormal.

On day six, the fever disappeared and I was discharged on day seven. I went home, but I was still sick. I tried to do my best as a new mother, but I just could not do anything without feeling sick. I began to feel as if I could not walk very far without having shortness of breath. My body was swollen and I could not sleep at night. I would jump up during the middle of the night gasping for air because I could not breathe.

I knew something wasn't right. Finally, I called my OB-GYN and my family physician. I went to see both of them and I made several trips to the local emergency room to only be diagnosed with postpartum depression. I felt so sad because I could not enjoy my babies like I wanted to. I was in so much pain that I could not hold my babies for very long. By this time, I was barely making steps without shortness of breath, I couldn't eat without vomiting (busted a blood vessel in my eye because of severe vomiting), and my legs were severely swollen, along with my belly. 

After convincing someone at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) that I was not depressed, I finally was evaluated for possible congestive heart failure.  I was seconds away from dying by now!  I was home for a month suffering before I was initially diagnosed with Post-Partum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM).  My body was shutting down completely, and I was in so much pain.

Once I made it to TMH for an evaluation, I was immediately taken for testing.  The first test was an echocardiogram.  My EF was 5-10 %( normal range 60-65%)!  I had a heart murmur and I was in congestive heart failure.  My family immediately rushed to the hospital to be with me.  They were terrified because they had watched me for an entire month going through phases of death.  It was a sight to see, especially by my loved ones.

I was immediately admitted to ICU because I was in critical condition.  It was not clear if I would make it.  I remembered being placed in ICU and given medication that night.   I also remember seeing a bright light for hours.  I am certain it was God!  He was watching over me and healing my body.  I was 140lbs that night, but that morning I was 120lbs.  I lost 20lbs of fluid overnight. 

The doctors could not believe that I was improving so soon and healing without any complications.  Eventually, I was well enough to go home.  I was referred to a cardiologist in the hospital and I was scheduled to meet with him periodically to monitor my heart problem. 

Six months passed and I received the news from my doctor that I was not improving as expected, and I would possibly need an implant.

 I went to my appointment and I felt confident that I would fight this disease.  I was still taking my medicine and suffering from the leg fatigue and pain.  My doctor at Mayo Clinic took me off the eight meds down to two per day. 

He looked at me and said, "I am going to do everything that I could to help you heal".  I was so afraid and sad because I was so young and experiencing this type of illness and crisis. 

One year passed and I was still here on earth with my babies. My church was praying for me as well as my family and friends.  My pastor speaks of this today.  He often talks about how the church was fasting and praying for my healing. 

Today, ten years later, I have another set of twins and my EF is 55-60%.  I am still taking two meds per day and I am healthy!  I did not have a reoccurrence with my second pregnancy, but my EF declined a little I made it through delivery without any complications.  God knew exactly what He was doing for me.  My first doctor told me I would die if I had more kids, but God wasn't ready for me.  I believe there is a purpose here on earth for me.  I will graduate from college next week with a bachelor's degree after all.  Ten years ago I fought for this moment to share with someone else.  I fought for my life to raise my kids and raise awareness!  To all of the PPCM mommies, keep fighting and keep the faith!

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Meet Our Florida Advocacy Committee

The American Heart Association is working toward improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, all by the year 2020. Policy change is essential for us to meet this bold goal, and our volunteers are at the heart of our efforts.

Each year, the American Heart Association invites a diverse group of volunteers to serve on the Florida Advocacy Committee, which is the advisory board to volunteers and staff on state public advocacy issues. With the leadership of our subcommittee, we create a state public policy agenda that impacts heart disease and stroke risk factors and protects heart disease and stroke patients. We also conduct grassroots and lobbying activities to educate the public and policymakers about the need for policy change.

This year, we are proud to announce our 2016-17 Florida Advocacy Subcommittee:

  • Wayne  Rich, Chair – Counsel to Broad and Cassel, Attorneys at Law, Orlando
  • Latonja (Toni) Richardson, Vice Chair – Consumer Affairs Investigator, City of Jacksonville, Jacksonville
  • Allyce Heflin, Member – Government Affairs Director, Southern Strategy, Tallahassee
  • Jabari Paul, Member –  North Florida Director, Faith in Florida
  • Patricia Love, Member – Registered Nurse, Ft. Lauderdale
  • Tom Nasby, Member – Vice President, Network Vice President, Aetna Insurance
  • Jose Romano, Member – Assistant Vice President, Community and Business Relations, Baptist Health South Florida
  • Roderick Harvey, Member – Managing Partner, HCT CPA’s, Hollywood
  • Ron Walker, Member – two-time heart transplant survivor, Jupiter

Stay tuned as we release our 2016-17 public policy agenda for Florida and let you know how you can help advocate in your community!

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Taking Action to Prevent Obesity

The American Heart Association (AHA) participated in the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR), the largest Hispanic civil-rights advocacy group in the U.S., annual conference in Orlando in late July as part of our effort to help all children grow up a healthy weight. .

Today, more than 23.5 million kids and teens in the United States — nearly one in three young people — are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for serious, even life-threatening, health problems. Childhood obesity disproportionately affects communities of color.  Latino youth are at higher risk with rates of 41.7 percent of males and 36.1 percent of females.  

Marla Hollander, National Partnerships Manager for Voices for Healthy Kids, along with Dr. Gil Dadlani, pediatric cardiologist and AHA board member, hosted a discussion with NCLR affiliate leaders to share opportunities on how our organizations can work together to ensure that Latino children have access to healthy food and physical activity where they live, learn and play.

The conference expo attracted over 20,000 attendees and included more than 125 exhibitors, connecting Central Florida’s Hispanic community to local service providers from health care to education.  AHA volunteers Annette Harrison, Kimby Jagnandan and AHA staff member Cecilia Curry-Ford were able to speak with attendees and provide informational materials, healthy recipes and register supporters to join the childhood obesity prevention movement.

Voices for Healthy Kids is a collaboration between the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation working to engage, organize and mobilize people to help all children achieve a healthy weight. The organization is focused on supporting policy and advocacy efforts that advance five key strategies that will help all children experience healthy environments, no matter who they are or where they live:

  • Ensuring that all children enter kindergarten at a healthy weight.
  • Making a healthy school environment the norm and not the exception across the United States.
  • Making physical activity part of  the everyday experience for children and youths.
  • Making healthy foods the affordable, available and desired choice in all neighborhoods.
  • Eliminating consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages before the age of five.

Lean more at

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Our Team is Growing

Over the past month, our Greater Southeast Affiliate Advocacy team has announced the addition of two Regional Vice Presidents and a Grassroots Specialist to assist with our lobbying and grassroots efforts across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Nathan Mick

On July 18, 2016, Nathan Mick joined the American Heart Association as Regional Vice President of Advocacy for the Greater Southeast Affiliate. He is responsible for managing our Government Relations Directors in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Nathan has a tremendous amount of experience in and around the policy and political arenas. He has been the Vice-President of Government Affairs and Business Development at StateBook International the past few years, where he was responsible for stakeholder relationships, government relations, brand, memberships, and strategic partnerships. He also served as the chief liaison to embassies, international companies, local, state and federal government officials. In late 2015, Nathan served as an advisor to the Kentucky Governor’s transition team on Economic Development and provided advice and recommendation directly to the governor and key staff to establish their team and system following the election. Nathan also served as the Carlisle and Nicholas County Industrial Development Authority, Government Relations and Economic Development Advisor and prior to that was the Garrard County Economic Development Director for several years. Nathan was the Deputy Campaign Manager and Political Director for the Pete Rickets for United States Senate Campaign in Nebraska, who is currently the Governor of Nebraska, and he was Deputy Chief of Staff to Senator Chuck Hagel.

Nathan graduated from Centre College in Kentucky, has a Master’s degree from the Naval War College, and has Economic Development and Community Development Certifications from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Kentucky.  Nathan worked for a regional arts center during college, where he managed the staff and was the marketing manager for the Atlanta Olympic Games for the Celebration of the Century.

He is active in the American Council of Young Political Leaders and has been on numerous trips with them and was also selected to represent the United States as an official delegation representative at Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Human Dimension Implementation Meetings in 2007, 2008 and 2013.

Todd Rosenbaum

On July 18, 2016, Todd joined the American Heart Association as the Regional Vice President of Government Relations for the Greater Southeast Affiliate. He manages our community government relations, grant management and grassroots functions.

Todd served as the Executive Director of the Florida State Alliance of YMCAs for the past five years, where he was responsible for coordinating advocacy activities, board development, working with committees, staff supervision, fiscal management, grant oversight, securing resources and event management. During his tenure he secured and managed over $370,000 in private grants and over $2 million in state government funding for both the YReads and Youth in Government Program.

Prior to his role as Executive Director of the Florida State Alliance of YMCA’s, Todd was the Northwest Florida Executive Director and ultimately the State Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Florida. His role at MADD required him to serve as the administrative (state agency) and legislative lead, leverage the grassroots network and increase the number of MADD signature events. In addition he managed a team of six throughout the state and a $2.8 million budget. 

Before joining MADD, Todd spent the 12 years at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, where he began as a Program Manager and was promoted several times until he became the Executive Director. He was responsible for opening a new $4.5 million, $40,000 square foot branch, managing a downtown YMCA with a $2.79 million budget and increasing revenue at that location. He also led a management team of six, more than 100 other staff and was responsible for a multi-million dollar budget for several years in a row.   

Laura Bracci, MPH

On August 1, 2016, Laura Bracci joined the Greater Southeast Affiliate advocacy team as a Grassroots Specialist. In this role, Laura provides grassroots support for local campaigns led by Advocacy and Community Health, as well as assists with managing the You’re the Cure network at the affiliate level.

Laura is a huge public health advocate and is very familiar with the American Heart Association. In fact, she worked for our organization for nine years, first as a Health Initiatives Manager and then the Georgia State Health Alliance Director until the department sunset in 2010.

After working for the American Heart Association, Laura remained actively engaged in public health. She worked as a consultant for a Farm to Preschool Summit in Georgia in 2013 – the first in the nation! She also worked with the Strong4Life Research and Development team to initiate the planning of research projects relevant to childhood obesity prevention and treatment.

For the past five years, Laura has worked as a project manager for Georgia State University’s School of Public Health. She has managed and cultivated state-level Leadership Council focused on improving policies to decrease childhood obesity prevalence.

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How fate brought together three stroke survivors' families

The following article about You're the Cure advocate Ryley Williams and two other youths who survived strokes on the same day was published by AHA CEO Nancy Brown in the Huffington Post on July 6th, 2016. A link is provided at the end of the story.

In the community of Dartmouth in the Canadian province Nova Scotia, Nik Latter’s family is throwing what his mom promises will be “a big ol’ party.” Fist bumps and hugs will celebrate the fact he’s made it an entire year since his devastating July 8th.

One by one, over each of the last three July 8s, Ryley, Amber and Nik suffered a stroke. Yet the oddity of their shared date is only part of what led their moms to create a de facto support group.

What really brought them together is that Ryley, Amber and Nik were — and still are — teenagers.

Ryley was 15 and devoted to becoming the starting nose guard on his varsity football team. Amber was 13 and loved playing softball and hanging out with the two girls who’d been her best friends since kindergarten. Nik was a few days shy of 18 and had left school to work at a restaurant; he’d bought a car and aimed to become a voluntary firefighter following that upcoming birthday.

Now, well, their dreams are different.

As we approach July 8, the families allowed me to share their stories to send an important message: Stroke can attack anyone at any time.


Ryley Williams went into the summer following his freshman year at Bentonville (Arkansas) High with one goal. He wanted to draw the attention of the varsity football coaches.

So he ran and lifted weights. He ate six meals a day, devouring only foods that would expand his 6-foot, 242-pound frame the right way.

“Honey, you’re never late, you make good grades, you don’t cause any problems — trust me, the coaches notice you,” his mom, Terri Rose, told him. “They just won’t tell you they notice you.”

The morning of Monday, July 8, 2013, Ryley went to an indoor field for football practice. He was stretching when he grabbed his leg and collapsed. Everyone thought he’d pulled a muscle and overreacted. Then they realized there was more to it.

At the hospital, a brain scan showed a bigger problem than the facility could handle. He was flown by helicopter to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. It wasn’t easy fitting someone his size into the chopper.

When they landed, seizures began. Off he went for an MRI. Looking at the results, the doctor pointed to five spots.

“This is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke, this is a stroke and this is a stroke,” the doctor said. “We need to find out why he has so many blood clots in his brain.”

Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, they still didn’t know why. And now they had a new problem. Ryley’s brain was swelling.

He underwent an operation to remove part of his skull. With Ryley sedated, doctors also took a closer look at his heart. They found hair-like strands of a bacterial infection on the outside of two valves. A-ha! This was the source.

Next question: How much brain damage had he suffered? His right side didn’t function. Doctors cautioned he may never walk or talk.

As Ryley was coming out of his medically induced coma, some football players visited. Coaches, too. They brought a varsity jersey with his number, 99.

“The head coach drove down to Little Rock and stayed with us when Ryley had the skull surgery,” Terri said. “Other coaches came to visit, too. They told us they were watching him. They knew he was going to have a big year. Hearing that was bittersweet.”

Fast forward to today.

His right arm remains compromised. He also battles aphasia, a condition that sometimes makes it hard for him to get words out. Still, Ryley recently graduated high school, right on time. He even spent the last year working at a Walmart Neighborhood Market. And he’s become an advocate for the American Stroke Association. Last year, he and Terri encouraged a Congressional subcommittee in Washington, D.C., to support more funding for research and awareness about pediatric stroke.

He’s spending this summer at a facility that specializes in neuropsychology recovery for victims of strokes and traumatic brain injuries. He’s learning skills to live on his own, although he plans to spend two years at home while attending Northwest Arkansas Community College.

“He’s incredibly positive,” Terri said. “He’s accepted everything. He tells you, `This is who I am now.’”


The night of July 8, 2014, Amber Hebert was on first base when the next batter hit the ball to the outfield.

Amber ran to second base without anyone trying to get her out, then fell as if she’d been punched. She vomited and went into a seizure. Her 5-foot-3, 86-pound body thrashed so violently that four firefighters held her down while a fifth injected her with medicine.

The local hospital in Bellevue, Nebraska, ended up sending her to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. The seizures continued until 3 a.m.

“When she finally stopped seizing, she was able to see and talk and understand you,” said her mom, Tirzah Hebert. “But I could see the fear in her eyes.”

Tests — and seizures — continued throughout the next day. Finally, doctors declared she’d suffered a stroke.

The next day, Amber sat in a chair holding a cup and walked around her hospital floor. The following day, she had a bit more difficulty holding a cup but could still walk. That night, Tirzah asked if she understood what had happened.

“I don’t know,” Amber said.

The next day, a Saturday, Amber couldn’t walk, talk or hold up her head. This continued until Tuesday, when she finally underwent an MRI. It showed that her brain was swelling.

Doctors were able to reduce it with medicine. Then came the waiting game to determine the extent of brain damage. Soon, she began smiling and communicating with her left hand — fist for yes, open palm for no.

These days, Amber walks, but sometimes the toes on her right foot curl, causing her to drag her foot.

She can’t move her right hand or wrist. She also has aphasia. Therapists believe that with practice she’ll improve in every area. (Doctors never determined the cause of her stroke.)

Alas, there have been other obstacles.

Shortly after Amber made it home, her dad’s dad — with whom she was very close — died of cancer. Four months later, a lump in her dad’s neck was found to be cancerous. Early detection plus chemotherapy and radiation helped him beat it.

School proved no refuge. She went from being one of the most popular girls at school to getting bullied. Her two lifelong best friends “just disappeared,” Tirzah said. Amber switched to homeschooling until giving the classroom another try this summer.

“She’s a happy girl, for the most part, very loving and caring,” Tirzah said. “She still has some depression, but who wouldn’t? To have your life completely turned upside down like hers has?”


Even as a child, Nik Latter struggled with migraines. So, last June, when he had one that was bad enough to go to a hospital, nobody thought much of it.

Nor did anyone think twice when he left work complaining of a migraine on Sunday, July 5, 2015.

The next day, he endured what he described as the worst migraine he’d ever experienced. He wore sunglasses indoors and had his mom, Rhonda, drive him to a clinic. The next day, he slept at his grandparents’ house because it was quieter than being home with his two younger sisters.

Rhonda visited him Wednesday, he stared blankly. He tried talking, but nothing came out.

“He’s having a stroke,” she declared. “Call 911!”

A scan showed a mass on the right side of his brain. During an operation, doctors determined it was a stroke. Days later, it was determined the cause was a sinus infection gone severely wrong. The infection broke the barrier between the sinus and the brain, releasing a blood clot.

Nik’s recovery started great. He gave hugs, pulled his mom’s hair and played thumb wars with his sisters. Then, in the early hours of July 16, he had another stroke. On the other side of his brain.

Doctors said Nik may not survive. But the family wanted to give him every chance. Their faith was rewarded when he was weaned off the breathing tube.

He continued clearing hurdles, although he remained hospitalized until March. The long struggle seemed to deflate him; being home reinvigorated him. He now puts his right foot down and pushes his wheelchair. He fist bumps with his right hand, laughs, smiles and kicks.

He makes sounds and, sometimes, says words. Not enough to say he’s talking. But he’s trying.

“He’s very aware of his surroundings,” Rhonda said.


While each stroke story is different, every stroke shares similarities.

Time lost is brain lost. The sooner the stroke can be recognized, the sooner treatment can begin. The gold standard of treatment is called tPA. If this clot-busting drug is administered within three hours, and up to 4.5 hours in some cases, the extent of recovery can improve drastically.

That’s why the American Stroke Association urges everyone to remember the acronym FAST. When you see Face drooping, Arm weakness or Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911.

Stroke is the No. 2 killer worldwide and No. 5 in the United States. While it’s true that strokes usually happen to older people is true, Ryley, Amber and Nik are proof that’s not always the case.

The world of pediatric stroke is small enough — and the pull of the internet is strong enough — that families of survivors are bound to find each other.

For instance, Terri connected with Lea Chaulk, a Canadian mom whose son was about the same age as Ryley and had a stroke about the same time. Terri and Lea became like sisters as they helped their sons grieve over the lives they lost and learn to embrace their new reality. Lea later introduced Terri to Rhonda.

Meanwhile, Ryley got to know four teenagers from the Kansas City area who were featured by American Heart Association News after they overcame strokes during high school to graduate on time. One of those families had gotten to know the Heberts, and they connected Terri and Tirzah.

The three moms — Terri, Tirzah and Rhonda — lean on each other often. They’ve yet to meet in person, although Ryley and Amber have shared messages via Facebook.

“Knowing that I’m not alone has helped soooo much,” Tirzah said.

“If I didn’t have some of these moms, I think I’d go insane,” said Rhonda, laughing. “Sometimes I sit down and get lost in thought and get upset. Then I’ll send one of them a message saying `I need you to bring me back down to Earth.’”

Three families irrevocably altered, all on a July 8. It’s incredible. Yet from this coincidence comes strength.

“I’ve told my family, `Look, it happened to two other kids on the same day,’” Tirzah said. “It’s like, Wow. And we’ve all made it this far. And you know what? We’re going to keep on going.”

Read the rest of the story on the Huffington Post.

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Haley Bruce, Tallahassee

Guest Blogger: Haley Bruce, Assistant Director, American Heart Association

Small but healthy. That’s what the doctors thought when I was delivered via emergency C-section a month early in July of 1992. That thought was short lived when a few hours after I was born my feet were solid black. I was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis causing a lack of lower extremity blood flow, as well as a bicuspid aortic valve, pulmonary stenosis, a ventricular septal defect, and so many holes in my heart the doctor said it looked like Swiss cheese.

I was life-flighted to Shands Children’s Hospital where it was determined I needed open heart surgery. I was given a 20 percent chance of survival, and at that time was the smallest baby Shands had ever performed surgery on. During that surgery, I was given a pulmonary arterial band to even out the blood flow between my pulmonary arteries, and a left arm shunt where the main artery in my left arm was rerouted to feed my aorta. I underwent my second open heart surgery 13 months later in 1993 to remove the pulmonary band. In August of 2004, I underwent aortic angioplasty and have been stable ever since. I still have a valve that leaks, and at some point may need a valve replacement, but I am so thankful for the healthy, active lifestyle I have been able to enjoy for so many years.

At a very young age, I became involved with my local American Heart Association in Tallahassee, Florida and am proud to say that 17 years later, I just celebrated my one year anniversary as the Assistant Director for the Panhandle and South Georgia communities. I whole heartedly stand behind our mission and love being able to say that I work for an organization that I feel truly makes a difference in the lives of others.

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It Is time for Florida to Be CPR Smart

Did you know the majority of sudden cardiac arrests happen outside of the hospital?  That means away from Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and surrounded by regular people, just like us.

In many cases, it’s our neighbors, family members or even complete strangers who we rely on to save our lives.

It’s crucial that they know the one skill that could save you in the event of cardiac arrest: CPR. That’s why we’re working to bring more lifesavers to our community by making sure no high schooler in Florida graduates without learning the life-saving skill of CPR.  We must take action and ask our lawmakers to support CPR in Schools so more lives are saved.  But don’t take our word for it.  The facts support themselves:

  • Many cardiac arrest victims appear healthy with no known heart disease or other risk factors. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, which causes the heart to suddenly stop beating.
  • Each year in the United States, about 326,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, and only about 10 percent of these victims survive. 
  • Yet, when a CPR-trained bystander is near, they can double, even triple these victims’ survival rates by giving victims the help they need until the EMTs arrive.
  • Three to five minutes is a matter of life and death for sudden cardiac arrest victims. If victims don’t receive CPR or an AED in this timeframe, their survival rates drop.
  • So far, 32 states across the country have passed laws requiring every high school student to be CPR-trained before graduation, and it’s paying off.  Graduates from just one school in Long Island, N.Y. have saved 16 lives      since being trained.

Florida has been prevented for several years from passing CPR legislation due to the objections of one powerful legislator. That individual has now decided to not run for re-election in 2016, opening the way for the possibility of passing CPR legislation in 2017.

Let’s save more lives.

Let’s train the next generation of lifesavers.

Let’s teach America’s students to be CPR smart.

Join us to support CPR training before graduation across America at

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Miami-Dade County Public Schools Passes CPR as a Graduation Requirement

For nearly a year, the American Heart Association has been working with the Miami-Dade County School District to ensure all high school students learn Hands-Only CPR™ prior to graduation.

Miami Dade Schools is an authorized American Heart Association ECC Training Center and has a long standing relationship with the association. Dr. Jayne Greenberg, member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, is the District Director of Physical Education and Health Literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and has been the main point of contact for this initiative. In January 2016 Dr. Greenberg submitted the Wellness Policy change to the school board for review, but it was not added to the school board agenda due to issues with some of the physical education components and was pushed to a vote in June 2016.

In the six months leading to the school board vote, American Heart Association staff worked closely with Dr. Greenberg on requests that could help provide more equipment to support this mandate if passed.  We submitted for bequest funds and were granted funds to purchase 10 additional CPR in Schools Kits™ for the school district.  To date the association has provided 83 American Heart Association CPR in Schools Kits™ to Miami Dade County schools. The CPR in Schools Training Kits will train an estimated 20,000 students annually.

In April we began to leverage our volunteer relationships. A member of our South Florida Board of Directors and American Heart Association volunteer, former Congressman Kendrick Meek, met with Miami-Dade School Board member Vice Chair Dr. Bendross-Mindingall. The Congressman masterfully laid out a strategy where the Vice Chair could make it a signature issue at the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and how she might be able to connect with Minority (Democratic) Leader Senator Oscar Braynon to create some real traction in the State Legislature. All parties left the meeting excited about the upcoming vote in June.

On June 22, 2016 the final reading of the proposed amendments to the Board’s Policy 8510, Wellness Policy was voted on and passed with consent. The new policy which will include the psychomotor skills used in Hands Only CPR/AED training went to effective immediately after the policy passed.

Thank you to Miami Dade Schools and our volunteers for helping to train the next generation of lifesavers in Miami Dade.

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New Government Relations Director Joins Advocacy Team in Florida

On June 27, Rivers H. Buford, III joined the American Heart Association as the Florida Government Relations Director. As a heart disease survivor, he looks forward to using his lobbying skills to impact cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Rivers most recently served for three years as Director of Governmental Affairs with the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Previously, he served Florida’s Senate President for two years as Policy Advisor and Staff Director for two Senate Committees (Agriculture and Transportation). He joined the Florida Department of State in 2001 as Director of Legislative Affairs, where he served for 10 years through eight Secretaries and ended his tenure as Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs.

While at the Department of State, he handled all legislative-related issues for the Divisions of: Corporations, Elections, Libraries, Cultural Affairs and Historical Resources, as well as the Division of Licensing prior to its transfer to another state agency. He was also the Emergency Coordinating Officer for the department and responded to all events when the State Emergency Operations Center was activated, serving as a part of the State Emergency Response Team (SERT). He is a graduate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Institute and is certified in ISO 100, 200, 300, 400, 600, 700, 800 procedures which attest to an increasing expertise in emergency management.  Additionally, he is a Certified Credit Union Director (CCD). 

Rivers began his Florida lobbying career with the Florida Trucking Association (FTA) in 1996 and has always held significant duties in addition to his main position. At the trucking association, he turned around their membership periodical from losing $3,000/month to making nearly $4,000/month.

Prior to being a team member at the FTA, Rivers worked with six different states on writing legislation allowing pharmacies to submit the first electronic Medicaid patient prescriptions for pharmacy reimbursement while in the FoxMeyer and later McKesson Drug organizations.

Please join us in welcoming Rivers to the American Heart Association!

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Help Protect PE for Kids Like Me!

Guest post from Reagan Spomer, 6th grader Alliance for a Healthier Generation Youth Advisory Board Member & You’re the Cure Advocate

I have two words for you… scooter hockey.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is!  Scooter hockey, along with cage ball and 3-way soccer are some of my favorite activities in gym class, which I have a few times a week.

I’m glad I have physical education for a number of reasons.  It keeps me active and teaches me to try new things.  It helps me focus on my school work.  It relieves my stress.  And most of all, it makes me feel great! 

But I know a lot of schools don’t have regular PE like my schools does.  That means a lot of kids are missing out on the benefits of being active during the school day.  I think this needs to change.   

Will you help?  As part of the nationwide campaign to protect PE in schools, Voices for Healthy Kids has created a photo petition map to show how many people across the country love PE like I do.  As people share their pictures, the map will change colors.  I’ve added my “I heart PE” photo for South Dakota.  Will you do the same for your state?  It’s really easy:

  1. Print an “I heart PE” sign (or make your own!)
  2. Take a picture of yourself holding the sign.
  3. Click on your state to share your photo.

Thanks for helping to protect PE for kids like me!

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