American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Rhonda Briggins, Georgia Advocacy Chair

Rhonda Briggins, J.D. GA

Rhonda Briggins, J.D. dedicates her life to public service through her role as a community advocate, political strategist and servant leader. She serves on various boards of directors such as the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, Vote Run Lead, DeKalb Workforce Development, and DeKalb Housing Authority Advisory Committee.  She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and she is the Regional Social Action Coordinator for the Southern Region which includes Alabama, Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.  She also a member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and is the Georgia Legislative Chair.  

Leadership development is a great passion of hers.  She has developed, marketed and implemented numerous workshops for elected officials, corporate offices, non-profit organizations, businesses and schools in this area. Her expertise and understanding of politics and political trends makes a valuable resource to many elected officials, company executives, employees interested in enhancing their skills. She is often sought after as a keynote speaker and workshop leader. To date, she has taught and trained thousands in the areas of political strategy, communications, public involvement fundraising, and base building. 

Rhonda brings over a decade of experience in advocacy and public policy.  She is currently the Senior Director of External Affairs for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).  She oversees Community Relations and Government Affairs (federal, state and local) for the Authority.  Over the last two years, she has worked with the Georgia General Assembly to pass major transportation legislations for the state of Georgia and MARTA amounting in over $1billion dollars for the agencies.

She has a Juris Doctor from Jones School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Law and Society from Georgia State University.  She resides in Tucker, Georgia with her son, Kai.

Join us in welcoming Rhonda to the team!

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Meet Suzy Fehlig

Name: Suzy Fehlig

Occupation: Real Estate Broker

How long have you been volunteering with AHA? 8 Years

Background: Suzy is a lifelong Arkansan currently residing in Cave Springs, AR with her husband Chuck.  She is the mother of two grown children Mark and Katie and the grandmother to Grayson and Lola.  After graduation from the University of Arkansas at Phillips College, she spent 7 years as nurse at a family practice clinic.  She has been a real estate broker for the past 22 years.

Suzy has been a board member of the Northwest Arkansas American Heart Association for the past 7 years.  She has served as Co-Chair of the Heart Ball and of the Go Red Luncheon.  She is also a member of the Mercy Hospital Women with a Mission Club.

Her hobbies include boating, snow skiing, and hunting with her husband.


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Meet Amy Baden

Name: Amy Baden

Volunteer Role: State Advocacy Committee Chair

Occupation: RN, Oklahoma Network Director of Cardiovascular Services for AllianceHealth.

How long have you been volunteering with AHA? Not sure…at least 5 yrs.

What motivates you to advocate for heart healthy and stroke smart policies? There are several things that motivate me: I have a positive family history for heart disease and stroke. I have lost several loved ones from complications associated with both. My children motivate me. The patients I have cared for as a cardiac critical care nurse and their families also motivates me. Heart disease has an impact on all of us each and every day.

Fun Fact: I recently graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Health/Health Care Administration/Management from Southern Nazarene University.

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Sheri Foote Takes on Cardiac Disease

Sheri Foote’s volunteer story started on the surgical table in 2006.


“Moving to Denver saved my life, actually. The altitude magnified my symptoms so that I would go see the doctor,” said Sheri. “They said I had major blockages in my arteries and that it was too late for any preventative procedure.”


Soon, at 39 years old, Sheri went in for quadruple bypass surgery. What started out as a routine surgery quickly became complex as Sheri had sudden cardiac arrest. She died on the operating table.


“Having a heart attack in front of an audience of doctors was careful planning on my part,” she joked.


What should have been a 4-hour surgery turned into 13 hours. Sheri stayed in the hospital for 16 days recovering.


“The battle for me can’t be won anymore, but it can be managed,” said Sheri. “For me, it’s about using my story to have a positive impact on our fight against heart disease so others don"t have to suffer my same fate.”


After a grueling recovery, Sheri joined the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Committee in Denver. Two years later, she joined the State Advocacy Committee after she attended her first You're the Cure lobby day in Washington DC in 2008.


"I've been involved in several advocacy victories over the years, but the biggest impact I feel I was able to personally have was on 2012 legislation to remove transfats from our schools," Sheri said. "I was invited to share my story with a Colorado Senate committee and I believe I was able to swing a few critical votes that helped pass that bill. There's something powerful in knowing you really can affect change."


Sheri is looking forward to the 2016 legislative session and helping lead Colorado’s State Advocacy Committee to more legislative victories.


“I’m looking forward to the 2016 session. If my story can benefit anyone, the next generation especially, I feel like I’ve used my powers for good,” said Sheri. “Our biggest impact is in our strength in numbers.”

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Colleen Rodgers Making Impacts in Wyoming

Colleen Rodgers is from Wyoming. She went to school in Cheyenne. She met her husband in Laramie. And she went to the University of Wyoming. Her two girls? Born in Wyoming. So when she decided to give back her time, she wanted to make sure she was having an impact in Wyoming.

As a Clinical Educator for RN and BSN students at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, she teaches the next generation of health care providers on giving appropriate care.  As a volunteer for the Mission Lifeline program in Wyoming, she co-chaired the protocols and quality improvement committee in order make sure that everyone in her community – no matter how far they live from Cheyenne or a town center – get appropriate care.

“Mission Lifeline is simple if you think about what we are trying to do. If we improve treatment times, we reduce deaths and significant injury from heart attack,” said Colleen. “Mission Lifeline helps to prevent sudden death in Wyoming.”

Colleen believes that the Mission Lifeline Program is crucial in rural communities in Wyoming.

“Because of the unique barriers in Wyoming, because of time, distance and resources, having good protocols is important to make sure that rural communities are acting in time to save lives,” said Colleen, “I’ve been in cardiac nursing for the last twelve years. My community is important to me and I want to make sure that everyone is always receiving high quality care.”

Colleen is most excited about getting Mission Lifeline funded in Wyoming.

“We were a little disappointed last year about not getting Mission Lifeline into the budget so I’m really excited to work on it at the State Legislature this year,” said Colleen. “With more support from the AHA with Kirstin [new AHA Community Integration and Advocacy Director], we are looking forward to other legislative priorities like CPR in schools and screening newborns for congenial heart disease.”


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Survivor Jim Myers Looking Forward to National, Local Advocacy to Lower Heart Disease

Jim Myers is a survivor, a father of 4, a husband and an advocate for the heart.

“I was young,” said Jim, “I had a heart attack 20 years ago at the age of 38. I was under a lot of stress – and was pretty oblivious to my family history. It happened when I alone, cutting Christmas trees for my family in forests of Northern New Mexico.  I had to drive 15 miles just to get back to civilization. I was helicoptered to Albuquerque some 4 hours later, so I lost some functioning of my heart."   

Years later, with a renewed sense of commitment towards healthy living and communities, Jim walked into the Albuquerque office of the American Heart Association hoping to be of help as a volunteer. His first year, he won the “Rookie of the Year 2002-2003” award for his work on the Heart Ball Gala committee.

He continued serving on various ELTs, helped as official photographer at Heart Walks, sang the National Anthem at others, then served as President of the AHA chapter from 2009-2010 and again in 2011-2013. Now he’s off the board, but currently Chairing the State Advocacy Committee and on the National Volunteer Oversight Group, meeting online and in Dallas once a year.

Jim’s day job is Outreach & Community Relations Manager at Presbyterian Healthcare at Home, but he’s found time to give back through advocacy at the American Heart Association and has made real impacts in New Mexico, speaking to the Albuquerque City Council in 2008 to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, helping stroke causes and other issues statewide.

“We worked on some pretty cool stuff last year,” said Jim, “For instance, legislation to require new born screenings for congenial heart disease. SB81 for EMS Pre-Hospital Accreditation, which made sure that stroke victims receive top level care, was also a big issue we won…unanimously.” 

April of this year marks the second time that Jim has lobbied for AHA on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  “This year, though our state delegation only had 2 appointments, I decided to walk in unannounced to our other 3 representative’s offices and make the case for more funding for the NIH and other AHA initiatives.  Turns out that constituents carry far more weight than paid lobbyist’s, so I encourage everyone to get involved with their Congress people, both at home and when possible, in Washington.”

Unfortunately, Jim’s luggage didn’t show up until the lobbying effort was over.  But being the marketing guy that he is, he sensed an opportunity. “The theme this year was ‘Step Up To The Plate,’ so I purchased a Washington National’s baseball tee (red of course).”  So while everyone was dressed to the 9’s, he was in his red t-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes.  “It was a great ‘in’ to talk about the necessity for all of us to step up to the nutritional plate for our kids.”  Jim suggests we all go to Step Up to the Plate on the AHA website – and let Congress hear YOUR voice!

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Share Your Story - Iowa


For most kids, August marks the end of summer and their return back to school. How do your kids get to and from school? Are they walkers, car riders or do they take the bus?

The American Heart Association is partnering with the Healthier Iowa Coalition to create safe and healthy communities for all families in Iowa. Through Safe Routes to Schools, we can make great strides in reducing local obesity rates and improving every citizen’s quality of life. We would love to hear about your child’s experiences, barriers and obstacles they encounter everyday getting to and from school. Please Share Your Story with us.

Currently, the Healthier Iowa Coalition is working on a Safe Routes to School initiative, which will provide needed funding for projects that will encourage our children to walk to school. The Healthier Iowa Coalition is dedicated to ensuring safe routes to school. As a federally-funded program, Safe Routes to Schools provides the financial resources to repair sidewalks, hire crossing guards, and remove the barriers that discourage parents from allowing their children to be active in the community. For more information, please visit The Healthier Iowa Coalition website.

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Share Your Story: Jenna Bell

Jenna Bell Kansas

I am a mom, Army Wife, daughter, and a survivor of heart disease. When I was 23 I was diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy and told I was at risk for sudden cardiac death. I wouldn’t have a heart attack. My heart would simply stop and I would die. I was told that I would never have children and I would be living with heart disease my whole life. They were wrong. I have two beautiful children Mary Ann and Will. I am on the heart transplant list and will be getting a new heart that will end the disease in mine. Even with my new heart I’ll be fighting for my heart and yours for many years to come.

When I was first diagnosed I thought it was stress.  The love of my life was 12 months into a 15 month deployment. I was a full time special education teacher, head of the special education department, a master’s degree student and working retail part time. I went to my doctor to appease my mother and expected for him to tell me it was stress and to go home. Instead he said, "You’re young, you’re healthy, you’re not overweight but go see the cardiologist just in case." I saw the cardiologist within a week and received my deadly diagnosis shortly thereafter. That doctor could have sent me home but instead he saved my life. 

Shortly after my diagnosis I heard about a casting call being done by the American Heart Association looking for "real women" to share their stories. I knew I had to share mine. I found out I was selected as a National Spokeswoman for AHA in 2009. It was a whirlwind of interviews and advocacy events and I loved every minute. I was able to share my story with women and show them, not tell them, that heart disease does not discriminate. All women are at risk. 

I am committed to educating others about heart disease for a number of reasons, the heart of which is my children. I want them to not only have access to great schools and great teachers but also to amazing healthy food while they are learning. What our children put in their bodies is equally as important as what we are putting in their minds. I also advocate for research. I want to ensure I am here for my kids as they grow up. Right now the average heart only lasts 12 years after transplantation. I want to live far longer and research is key. Heart disease is the #1 killer and we need top notch research to eradicate it from our lives and the lives of our children.

When I think of the future I think of my daughter’s wedding. I think of watching her Dad walk her down the aisle. Her little brother watching his sister commit to the person she loves. My parents being there to support her. I think of hugging her on her wedding day and telling her how beautiful she looks. I think of all those things every time I educate someone about my heart journey and living a heart healthy life. I choose to advocate, fundraise, and educate to ensure a heart healthy future for me, my family and my community.

Her Wedding is Why.


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Advocate Spotlight: ND SHAPE on New P.E. Standards

Following a year long process, the new North Dakota Physical Education Standards and Outcomes were released in July 2015.  Funds were pooled from the ND Department of Public Instruction, American Heart Association, and ND Society of Health and Physical Educators to develop and host a professional development (PD) series in 7 Regional Education Associations (REA’s) across the state.  The PD series will consist of a 4 parts which will include:

  • Pregame:  Warming Up to the Standards - Get ready for the game with an online tutorial designed to provide foundational knowledge necessary to complete the course.
  • First Half - Receive a comprehensive overview of the standards including sample standards-based tasks and activities based on best practice.
  • Half Time - During half time, use backward design to further develop curriculum content on your own with the information and guidance received in the First Half.
  • Second Half - Participate in developmental level specific curriculum development, explore core content integration, and develop strategies for advocacy for physical education.

The professional development series will be held at the following locations for any area physical education teachers.  One graduate credit through North Dakota State University will be offered.

MDEC (Minot State University), November 8, 2015, and February 2, 2016, To Register:

MREC (Career Academy, Bismarck), September 29, 2015, and February 9, 2016, To Register:

NCEC (Dakota College of Bottineau OR West Hope), October 1, 2015 and March 7, 2016, To Register:

SEEC (SEEC Loft - UND Tech Accelerator), October 13, 2015 and March 29, 2016, To Register:

RRVEC (Grand Forks - UND Tech Accelerator), October 11, 2015 and March 22, 2016, To Register:

GNWEC (Williston), September 25, 2015, and April 15, 2016, To Register:  Contact

RESP (Dickinson State University - Student Center Ballroom), September 22, 2015 and April 12, 2016, To Register:

The trainings are funded by ND SHAPE, Jump Rope for Heart, Hoops for Heart, and our ND Department of Instruction (Health Division). 

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Share Your Story: Debora Grandison

Debora Grandison Missouri

It was 26 years ago when I was placed on medication to stop pre-term labor. That medication not only jeopardized the life of my unborn child, but mine as well. After a stint in intensive care, I began a long journey of misdiagnoses, medications and medical testing, which all led to years of unanswered questions, feeling misunderstood and a great deal of anxiety and fear.

The key to getting me on track was finding a doctor who understood my symptoms, fears and concerns. This allowed me to create a positive plan of action that would put me on a life changing journey. This journey, is my journey, a journey with a purpose to make a difference through volunteering opportunities and sharing my story.

I began volunteering with the AHA's Go Red Passion Committee and also became an active member of The Midwest Affiliate Speaker's Bureau. This year I also had the pleasure of traveling to the Missouri State Capitol to lobby in support of House Bill #457 which would make CPR Training mandatory in our high schools. And now I’m sharing my story with my fellow Missourians to promote heart health awareness.

Over the years, I watched heart disease shorten the lives of 4 immediate family members including a younger sibling who passed away at the early age of 35 from a massive heart attack. This leaves me questioning what MY future holds.

Currently, I am living well; even with a pacemaker, Afib and diabetes. I have a strong desire to encourage, empower and support those who may walk a similar path as mine. I enjoy educating others through advocating awareness and prevention of Heart Disease and Stroke. I actively seek opportunities to "spread the word" throughout the community! Finding passion and purpose through my journey, is a true gift that brings me joy!

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