Mary Jo Gillespie Nebraska
I was in my early twenties when my dad, age 57 died from heart disease. At the time I was in graduate school completing a nutrition degree to become a Registered Dietitian. Not only was that a life changing event, it was at that time that I became involved in my local American Heart Association Board of Directors and I have been involved with AHA my entire professional career. I became involved as a way to honor my dad’s memory and I received so much more in return.
Being an AHA volunteer for over 30 years has provided me with so many opportunities. I was President of the Heartland Affiliate Board, chaired Go Red for Women, was involved in Heart Walk, Hoops for Heart, Jump for Heart, blood pressure screenings, health fairs, and basically every event or committee AHA offered. However, I think one of the most meaningful and impactful efforts has been being involved in advocacy work for the AHA.
Advocacy efforts translate science into meaningful policies that impact people where they work, live, learn and play. I have had such great opportunities to be involved in policy work relating to smoke-free air, CPR education, AED placement, nutrition and physical education in the schools, safe routes to school, and newborn screenings, to name a few. All of these, thanks in part, to the American Heart Association!
I encourage others to join the AHA You’re the Cure Network to help advance policy changes on the local, state and federal levels that will create healthier communities and healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. There are so many ways to be involved and it truly does make a difference—in your life personally and in the lives of those you love.