American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
Take the You're the Cure Advocate Survey

2015 was a great year for You're the Cure advocates and the many policy efforts that you work on. We have big plans for 2016, and we want to hear from you and what you want to see in the future for You're the Cure.

So take the survey now and let your voice be heard.

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Children's Hospital of Illinois Tour

Our Senior Director of Government Relations, Mark Peysakhovich, was honored to join Congressman Darin LaHood for a tour of the Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria on Monday. He got to see some of their youngest patients at the hospital’s amazing Pediatric Congenital Heart Defects clinic. Many thanks to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria for the miracles they perform every day for these babies and their families! To see photos from the tour check out our Facebook page here! Remember Congenital Heart Disease awareness week is February 7th-14th!

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Advocate Spotlight: PJ Jones

What is your why?


What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

I am currently a member of The Multiculture Committee and I wanted to branch out with AHA and see what other volunteer opportunities were out there. So here I am and it is very educational as far as getting your voice heard in other ways. I am really enjoying it.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

My passion lies with the young people. Getting them educated through the AHA on : Eating right-bringing them supplies needed to grow their own vegetables and fruits. Exercise-staying active. Just maintaining a healthy body, because they are our future and they are the ones that will take care of us someday.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

My first meeting downtown at AHA learning how to take an idea and turn it into a bill. IT WAS AWESOME!! I would encourage all advocacy volunteers to attend a Summit!

What is your favorite way to be active?

Walking in the AHA Heart Walk...

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

ALL FRUITS and greens-all of them.

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Join us on National Wear Red Day, Friday, February 5

The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women are asking for your support by participating in National Wear Red Day® on Friday, February 5, 2016 and donating to help fund research during American Health Month.

Why Go Red? Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.  Fortunately, we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action. That’s why this year we are asking that you wear red on National Wear Red Day® and donate to Go Red For Woman. By doing so you help support educational programs to increase women’s awareness and critical research to discover scientific knowledge about cardiovascular health. 

And don’t forget to make your heart health a priority. Schedule your Well-Woman Visit, a prevention check-up to review a woman’s overall health so her doctor can measure blood pressure, check cholesterol and look for signs of heart disease, stroke and other illnesses. Then encourage others through your social channels to do the same.

We couldn’t make positive changes without the support and donations by individuals like you.

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Advocate Spotlight: Karen Dennis

What is your why?

My WHY started off more as a "work thing."  I am a RN and I worked in Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation/Cardiology.  Working with the AHA was just something that someone from my department did. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I just didn’t have much intrinsic motivation WHY then. Then, in 2001, my grandfather died as a result of cardiac problems. From that point on, the WHY was to honor my grandpa, Harold Bork, and to do my part of the work of the AHA so that other families do not have to experience the loss of a loved one due to heart or stroke disease.

What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

I have been involved with the AHA since the early 1990’s when I was working as a Registered Nurse in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.  I served on our area Heart Board at the time, as well as helped to organize our McLean Country Heart Walks. Now that I am teaching at Illinois State University, I am able to include my students in the work of the AHA. It is a great way to not only get the word out, but also a great way to get new people involved in the work!

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

I am passionate about keeping and improving physical education and fitness in schools.  Quality daily physical activity is obviously good for our children’s physical health.  Quality education about the physical is good for teaching students about healthy choices. AND now, research clearly indicates that higher level fitness also improves academic performance.  Quality daily physical education can make a difference and improve students’ fitness scores.  During the days of STEM and achievement testing, it makes no sense to me why the first thing to be cut is physical education.  QUALITY physical education should be the first subject to be funded! My children’s most important teacher, I believe, is their physical education teacher, because that teacher is teaching them how to be active and healthy for life.  If my child becomes sick as an adult with a chronic disease due to disuse, all the science and math knowledge in the world is meaningless.  With QUALITY daily physical education, my child is armed with knowledge and experiences to help them to choose daily physical activity and healthy choices for the rest of their life!

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

My favorite advocacy memory would have to be taking my senior Illinois State University Exercise Science students who were enrolled in Kinesiology and Recreation 307 – Exercise in Health and Disease class to Springfield to meet with their state legislators. Anne Simaytis and Rae O’Neill, along with fellow advocate Scott Saxe provided my students with an absolutely outstanding day of information and outreach.

What is your favorite way to be active?

I run!! I absolutely love it – at least running outside. I struggle in the winter when it gets cold out because I am stuck with the treadmill. But for me, running helps me focus on my day and allows me to put everything in perspective.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

I would have a tough time trying to answer this one! I grew up on a farm, and my mom, Alice Monk, was (and still is) an incredible gardener! I grew up with great variety of all kinds of wonderful vegetables.  I really love them all - especially if they’re from mom’s garden!

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Pump Up P.E. Webinar

On Monday, January 25, 2016 join us from 12:30pm-2pm for a webinar on how physical educators can better engage parents as champions of physical education and school health. Hosted by the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity’s workgroup on Childhood Nutrition & Physical Activity in Educational Settings, this webinar will feature physical educators, school leaders, physicians, and a parent who have all worked to promote physical education and community health in partnership with schools. Participants will learn practical strategies for when and how to engage parents and the role parents can play in advocating for physical education and physical activity in schools. Click here to read more about the upcoming webinar.

Register for the webinar today!

Speakers include:

Sandy Noel, retired physical educator and co-chair of the IAPO workgroup

Mark Peysakhovich, Senior Director of Government Relations at the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and co-chair of the IAPO workgroup

Dan Phelps, Assistant Principal, Hononegah Community High School

Martha Carmen, Physical Education/Science Teacher, Edison Park Elementary School

Tim Sanborn, Cardiology Division, NorthShore University HealthSystem and Clinical Professor, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

Sandy Shackelford, parent from O’Fallon, Illinois

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Get Social With Your Members of Congress

Will you be on Facebook or Twitter today? Your Members of Congress and their staff will be, and it's a good place to reach them according to a report released in October by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF).

The CMF report, #SocialCongress, says Congressional offices are listening to social media chatter and it takes relatively few posts or comments to get their attention. That's good news for us!

So, how can you use the Facebook newsfeed or Twitter timeline to get the attention of lawmakers and help pass heart healthy policies?

  • Follow your members of Congress, as well as state and local elected officials on Twitter. ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ their pages on Facebook.
  • Tweet about our health policy issues, tagging the appropriate legislators by using the @ sign and their Twitter handle. For example: I’m from Pennsylvania, so I’d tag my U.S. Senators by including @SenBobCasey & @SenToomey in my tweet.
  • If they allow it, you can post about our issues directly on the Facebook pages of elected officials. Frequently, that feature is disabled but you are able to comment on their posts. According to #SocialCongress, Congressional offices typically monitor those comments for a limited period of time. Your best bet is to comment within the first 24 hours after a post.
  • Rally your friends and family members to tweet, post or comment about an issue on a single ‘day of action’. CMF’s survey data shows just 30 or fewer comments can be enough to make a legislative office pay attention.
  • Be sure to use the campaign hashtag if one has been created by your advocacy staff partners. The #hashtag allows all the relevant posts to be woven together to tell our story, and makes your post searchable by others interested in the issue.    

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IAHPERD Convention

On November 19th and 20th, hundreds of Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD) members gathered at the IAHPERD Convention in Saint Charles, Illinois to hear the latest on Physical Education (P.E.) in Illinois schools. 248 attendees helped protect P.E. in Illinois by signing a petition asking Governor Rauner and their state legislators to not propose any legislation that will eliminate or reduce physical education in Illinois schools.

Add your voice to the fight and text HEARTIL to 52886! Then help us spread the word by asking friends and family to do the same.

Thank you for your support!

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Advocate Spotlight: Tawanda Johnson-Gray

What is your WHY? 

My WHY is my children and future generations.

What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association? 

In 2008, I had my fourth stroke, which was misdiagnosed originally, until I refused to leave the hospital.  Further testing was conducted due to the refusal to leave, and a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale) was discovered, along with a blood clotting disorders (Protein C & S Deficiency).  At that moment, I had a real live immediate positive reinforcement from an act of advocacy for myself.  My sister, who was living in Chicago, connected me to the American Heart Association office in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area and the rest is HISTORY!

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why? 

As a former Arizona Tobacco Tax Commissioner, I must say tobacco policy as it relates to Heart Disease and Stroke is my passion. Heart Disease and Stroke due to the use of tobacco is preventable. Policy that addresses cessation and prevention is cutting edge policy in a society in which big tobacco is really creative about pushing newer tobacco products.   For example, the use of hookah pipes, selling delusional ideas that hookah smoking is not as damaging, when in fact, one sitting of hookah smoking is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes at once.  Not only to mention that we really don’t know what’s in hookah tobacco, as it is not regulated in regards to ingredients.  Another example of the craftiness is the push behind the cigar sub-culture as a status measurement for men and a measurement of strength for women.  Tobacco is tobacco, smoke is smoke, and smoke causes injury to the blood, heart, cardiovascular system, and the lungs.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

My most favorite advocacy memory so far was my most recent federal advocacy activity in September of 2015 in Washington, D.C.  To move back to the state of Illinois, be here under four months and be asked to represent the people of state of Illinois for the National Institutes of Health Rally for Medical Research Day on the Hill has by far become my most favorite.  I have lobbied in Washington, D.C. for the American Heart Association as a resident of Arizona before, but what made this experience special is the number of elected officials I was able to touch in one day with the sharing of my story and making the human connection as a 6-time stroke survivor to Illinois Members’ of Congress was phenomenal.  As an advocate since 2009, I have learned to respect the position of advocacy on every level, and of being able to impact policy in the United States as our nation’s founders intended.

On September 17th, American Heart Association joined the American Association for Cancer Researchers (AACR) to advocate for NIH funding. Advocates from both organizations from around the country met with their legislators and spoke about the importance of funding medical research. American Heart Association advocate, Tawanda Johnson-Gray from Illinois met with several Illinois lawmakers including Congressman Mike Quigley, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Senator Richard Durbin, and Senator Mark Kirk. Many thanks to Tawanda for giving a voice to the countless numbers of heart and stroke patients around the country!

What is your favorite way to be active? 

Yoga.  It is my favorite because it gets my heart rate up, but it also helps me quiet my mind.

What is your favorite fruit? 

My favorite fruits are Pineapple, Watermelon, and Pomegranate.  My favorite vegetable is Romaine Lettuce.

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We're Feeling Grateful

As AHA Advocacy staff, we get to work alongside the most remarkable volunteers- like YOU! We get to see lives improved and lives saved as a result of the work we’ve done together, and for that, we're grateful.

As You’re the Cure volunteers, you share personal stories of loved ones lost too soon, of survival, or of triumph over heart disease or stroke- all because you know your stories will make a difference in someone else’s life. It is often those stories that convince lawmakers to pass the policies making our communities healthier.

Because of you, more babies are being screened with Pulse Ox and having their heart defects corrected before it’s too late. Because of you, people in communities around the country have been saved by students who learned CPR in school. Because of you, people are getting better stroke care, families have safe places for active play, fewer people are smoking, and kids are eating healthier food at school.  The impact you’re making is incredible, and our communities are better places- because of you.

You make us cry. You share your joy. You inspire us. You amaze us. And we’re just so grateful for all you do.

We’re including YOU as we count our blessings this month, and we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!   

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