American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Alyson Whitaker, Georgia

Over the past five years, we have gained new sponsors and some have been with us the whole time, helping Alyson to reach her goal each year by participating in Jump Rope For Heart. As you may know Alyson does Jump Rope For Heart not only because she herself is a heart patient, but to honor her little brother Cole. With contributions from her sponsors no matter how big or small we know they have helped to save a life like Alyson and Cole. We have so much gratitude for each of her sponsors and could never say thank you enough.

We lost Cole on August 14, 2010 from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and Total Pulmonary Venus Return; he only lived for -nine short days. As times change so does medical technology. With each donation received we know it helps to advance technology so other parents and siblings will not have to suffer the loss of their child or brother/sister from a congenital heart defect like Cole. Each year, our little nine year-old miracle Alyson, gives back by participating in Jump Rope For Heart, she says, "This is just a small thing I can do to honor my little brother and other children like him and me."

To date, Alyson has raised a total of $6,979 for Jump Rope For Heart and she refuses the gifts offered for her for fundraising. Each year she not only wins the honor of raising the most money for her school in Locust Grove, but for Henry County. Next year Alyson has set her goal high. She wants to be able to raise the most money for the state of Georgia. To Alyson this is not a competition but an honor for her to be as young as she is and to be able to say, “I made a difference in a heart patient's life.” Plus, she is helping to save someone like her brother Cole who wasn't given an opportunity at a long life. 

Read more about Alyson's story here on

-Written by Alyson's mother, You're the Cure advocate Paula Whitaker.

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Summer Health Tips

The arrival of summer means days at the pool, family barbeques, picnics, sports and other outdoor activities. Below are a few tips that you can use this summer to keep your whole family happy and healthy.



Staying active in the summer months

  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water before, during and even after physical activity.
  • Protect your family from the sun.
  • Try to avoid intense physical activity during the hottest parts of the day (between noon to 3pm).
  • Dress for the heat.
  • Head indoors when the heat becomes unbearable. There are plenty of indoor activities that can keep you active on the hottest days.

Heart-Healthy Cookout Ideas

  • Go fish!
  • Make a better burger by purchasing leaner meat and adding delicious veggies.
  • Replace your traditional greasy fries with some heart healthy baked fries.
  • Veggie kabobs are a fun and healthy addition to your family barbeque.
  • Try grilled corn on the cob.

Healthy Road Trip

  • Make “rest breaks” active.
  • Pack healthy snacks to avoid the unhealthy foods at rest stops along your way.
  • Pack to play to continue your regular physical activity.
  • Reach for water instead of being tempted by sugary drinks.

Summer Snack Ideas

  • Homemade freezer fruit pops are an easy and fun treat for the whole family.
  • Keep your veggies cool and crisp during the summer months and they becoming a refreshing treat.
  • Fruit smoothies area a healthy way to cool yourself down on a hot summer day.
  • Mix up your own trail mix to take on all of your summer adventures.
  • Just slice and serve all the delicious fruits that are in season during the summer months.


Read more about these tips and other getting healthy tips over at 

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Congratulations, Spout Springs Elementary!


Elementary students at Spout Springs School of Enrichment are on the move, and winning well-deserved accolades. While helping others, they are learning to help themselves. Attendance is up, disciplinary actions are down, and test scores have improved.  

Participating for the first time in the American Heart Association's fundraiser, Jump Rope For Heart, the school in Flowery Branch, GA broke the Hall County record. Out of a student body of 825, more than 400 students donated and raised over $16,000. Jumping rope to slogans of Jump the Creek and Cross the Raging River, they learned the benefits of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle in preventing heart disease and strokes, while having fun. 

Presented with the Gold Award from the National Healthy Schools Program they became the first elementary school in the southeastern region to hold this distinction. Quite a feat considering it was only their third year in the program; their first year they won bronze, and the second year silver. For such an outstanding accomplishment their State Representatives, Rep. Butch Miller and Rep. John Wilkinson, sponsored a resolution in the Georgia General Assembly to honor the school.  

SR 446: A RESOLUTION commending Spout Springs School of Enrichment for being the first school in Georgia and the entire southeast to be named an Alliance for a Healthier Generation 2014-2015 GOLD National Recognition School.

Working with the Alliance to implement the program’s framework of best practices, the nutrition department and staff were offered technical assistance, professional development, tools, resources and national experts for support. Teachers now intersperse healthy activities with their lessons, improving everyone’s day, including their own. 

To quote Tom Adam, their coach and a physical education teacher, “Working with the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program is life changing. For me, and more importantly our students and their parents, it has been nothing less than a culture change for our community”.  Even the Parent Teacher Organization stopped selling unhealthy treats for fundraisers, instead promoting physical activity fundraisers.

Guided by their principal, Arlene Thomas, the school is living up to its mission to be a place of enrichment “where students are able to discover and develop their talents through active engagement in challenging and enjoyable learning experiences.”

Spout Springs School is setting a standard for change in our country where 23 percent of children get no exercise, and obesity is touching even the very young.  By participating in the Alliance’s Healthy Schools program, and the American Heart Association's Jump Rope For Heart program, the school has shown you can transform motion into measurable results. Congratulations, job well done! 

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Lobby Day MVPs in the Spotlight

There were SO many amazing stories surrounding this year’s Hill Day that it was hard to narrow down our annual lobby day award winners. Not a bad problem to have! Please join us in congratulating these You’re the Cure MVPs, and then learn more about their stories in this video.

  • Science Advocate of the year – Dr. David Yu-Yiao Huang

Dr. Huang has been involved with AHA advocacy since 2003. From submitting expert written testimony and attending in-district meetings, to speaking before lawmakers, his passion for policy and his belief in the positive change policy can achieve has contributed significantly to big wins in North Carolina.

  • Volunteer Advocate of the Year – Theresa Conejo

Theresa has been one of the key proponents of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive smoke-free law. Last year, she signed a smoke-free op-ed which was picked up by major news outlets across the state. She also aggressively advocated for the proposed Clean Indoor Law. In addition, she recruits new You’re the Cure advocates at every opportunity. In fact, just recently, she signed up an additional 35 volunteers to join her in Pennsylvania’s smoke-free fight.

  • Survivor Advocate of the Year – Jim Bischoff

Jim’s own struggle with heart disease, as well as his experience with his son-in-law’s stroke, gives him a unique perspective to share during state and federal lobby days and meetings with lawmakers. His family history inspired him to provide leadership on stroke systems of care legislation. He also dedicates his time to tobacco issues, and attends in-district meetings with his lawmaker to discuss both of these important issues.

  • Youth Advocate of the Year – Cassidy Collins

Cassidy uses her story as a congenital heart survivor to illustrate the importance of AHA’s policy issues. At the age of 16, her resume is already quite impressive – she’s met with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to advocate for tobacco control funding; she has been a top fundraiser for the Roanoke Heart Walk for two years; and she has applied to work as a youth advocate for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Check out this video below highlighting the award winners!

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.

Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:


  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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May is American Stroke Month

Anyone can have a stroke and everyone should be ready.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke. That is why The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is inviting all Americans to become Stroke Heroes by learning and sharing the warning signs of stroke, F.A.ST. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Recognizing and responding to a stroke emergency immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life. Be ready!

Here is how you can participate in American Stroke Month

  • Share the F.A.S.T. acronym with your friends, family and loved ones throughout American Stroke Month.
  • Share our F.A.S.T. Quiz to test your stroke knowledge.
  • Download our free Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T. mobile app to prepare you in case of a stroke emergency and to have easy access.

Go to to learn more about how you can get involved.




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From the Bottom of our Hearts - Thank You!

National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) is right around the corner and we couldn’t let it pass without saying how much we appreciate all your contributions as a You’re the Cure advocate. It’s advocates like you who give their time, energy, and passion to help create healthier communities across the country.  We are deeply grateful for your commitment and talent as an advocate.

Since staff can’t always shake your hand and say thank you in person we’ve got a brief video to share. When you watch I am sure you too will be moved by all the great work happening in your states and communities and we look forward to more success in the future. Take a moment to check out the video and then encourage other to get involved and join in the fun.

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Honoring Captain Herb Emory

On March 26, Day 37 of the Georgia General Assembly’s 40-day Legislative Session, the Georgia House of Representatives honored the life of Captain Herb Emory, a long-time traffic reporter in the Metro Atlanta area who passed away from a heart attack on April 12, 2014.

Led by Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville), a resolution honoring Herb’s life was presented to his wife Karen. Members of the WSB traffic team were on hand as well.

“He was a distinguished Douglas County citizen and a Georgia icon,” says Gravley. “Every morning he got us safely to work and every evening helped us navigate the way home.” Emory was an icon who reported both morning and afternoon Atlanta traffic reports from his helicopter.

On April 12, Emory reportedly heard a multi-vehicle crash near him home in Douglas County, and immediately called 9-1-1. He then ventured out to the crash site where he collapsed of a massive heart attack. He passed at 3:30 p.m. at age 61, according to Douglas County Coroner Randy Daniel.  

Emory was a native of Brevard, N.C., and fondly shared his beloved “Aunt Bea” with his community. She stood watch at the funeral home the evening of his service, attended by such friends as radio personality Clark Howard. Emory was inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2008.

Emory’s name will be memorialized on two prominent roadways: a bridge at Lee Road over I-20 in Douglas County, Emory’s hometown, and the new GA 400 flyover ramp.

-Written by Sandra Parrish.

Click here to learn about the signs of a heart attack on

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Help secure funding for this life-saving AED program today!

This is a critical time in Congress. Lawmakers are deciding on their funding priorities and the next round of budget negotiations are beginning. Even in this difficult economy, there are several federally-funded programs that are vital to the heart community, and we need to let our lawmakers know they must be a priority.

One such program helps buy and place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in rural communities. The program also trains first responders and others in the community to use and operate these devices. The Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program ensures those who live in rural areas or small towns have access to the tools they need for the best chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, the program currently only has the resources to operate in 12 states.

Please contact your lawmaker today and ask them to prioritize funding to save lives from cardiac arrest!

People in every state should be given the best shot at surviving a cardiac arrest. Communities with aggressive AED placements have increased survival rates from about 11% to nearly 40%, which is an incredible improvement. But 38 states are still waiting for funds for this life-saving program.

Deadlines in Congress are looming, so please contact your elected officials TODAY!

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Quantina Connely, GA

Quantina Connely Shawnee, GA

“Grandma, grandma, wake up”. That fateful morning I was a nine-year old rushing to be ready for my rural school bus, when in an instant my life changed. In her seventies, grandma Bessie sat down to rest and catch her breath, and never got up again. Her heart gave out.

Born to a young teenage mother not able to care for me, I was taken in by my great-grandparents as a baby. Grandma Bessie had been a pillar of her church, and beloved by everyone in the community.  A retired school bus driver, I wasn’t the only child comforted by her words of wisdom. Her good works were so compelling that the TV show Extreme Makeover had just selected us as a finalist for a new home.

Change was in the air, but it wasn’t the change we thought might be coming our way.

A diabetic, her blood pressure had become harder to control. Frequent trips to the doctor, and changes in medicines, didn’t seem to be working. Looking back to that day, I know how vitally important it is to have equal, and accessible, medical care in rural areas. It can often mean the difference between life and death.

Granddaddy Paul was left to raise me alone. We were quite the twosome, an old man and a girl child. Diabetic himself, I learned to give him his daily injections at a young age. He has had numerous hospital stays, and I am always the one by his bedside, night and day. Last count, he has had seven pin strokes.

I’ve had to grow up fast. Heart and vascular conditions are not easy to deal with, especially for a teenager who is the primary caregiver. It changes your lifestyle.

Recently granddaddy said, “I just want to live long enough to see you graduate high school." The day I turned eighteen, I was blessed to learn I had been accepted into a college that offers the degree I want to pursue, nursing. If I accept their offer I will have to move away and live in a dorm. I care about the elderly, and I want to make taking care of sick people my life’s work.

I’m excited, but I’m scared. My great-granddaddy is 83 and hopes to remain in his lifelong home. Follow-up care, and rehabilitation, are so needed for victims of heart attacks and strokes. Putting a cap on stroke therapy doesn’t make sense. I love my granddaddy, and I pray he will always receive the care he deserves. I pray that the legacy of caring that my great-grandparents taught me, I will be able to pass on someday as a nurse.

Dare I go after my dreams? Will my granddaddy be okay without me?

Written by Cynthia Arnsdorff, State Advocacy Committee Member

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