Thursday, February 28, 2008

Go Red Luncheon

We've just celebrated our fifth year of Go Red luncheons, both in Arkansas, and around the country. My involvement with Go Red has been intense, and long term. It all began in 2000 when I founded Taking Wellness to Heart, my own 501c3 dedicated to women's heart disease awareness and education, as well as the acquisition and distribution of life saving Automatic Electronic Defibrillators. In September of 2000 I hosted my first "Heart Strong Woman" conference, at the Conway Regional Medical Center. We had over 250 ladies at that first event, all of which were given free cholesterol, blood pressure and bone density screenings. We had a number of vendors present, and I had invited the American Heart Association to set up a booth. Amanda Smith, Central Arkansas Heart Walk Director, was there that day, and heard me speak. That was the day I became a state spokesperson for the AHA. Amanda utilized me all over Arkansas for several months, and I was then given the opportunity to travel outside the state and speak to women's groups. Later that year Amanda, along with Missy Lewis (metro-executive director AHA), visited me in my office. They said "the AHA is working on a new movement aimed at women, and we want to pick your brain". That started a series of meetings where I was involved in the founding of Go Red, a movement that has now spread across the nation. It started as such a small idea, with individuals banding together to change the way the medical community and the public view heart disease and women, and now it is a well known movement with celebrity spokespersons and global companies sponsoring awareness. I am in awe of what has occurred with this little idea and some incredible brainstorming sessions. Of course, in no way do I want to imply I am in any way solely responsible for this incredible movement, but I am honored and humbled to know that my efforts and ideas had a small part in forming this life changing entity. I am also incredibly blessed to still be part of the speakers board, sharing my personal story through luncheons everywhere.
Five years into Go Red, and still going strong! Enjoy the photos of my most recent luncheons-February is full of them for me!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I LOVE February-A time to reflect

I love February.  Don't get me wrong; I hate the weather, the short days, and the occasional hints of spring that seem to slip through our fingers.  But I LOVE February. Women's Heart Disease Awareness Month is precious to me.  In February of 2000 I wrote my first State Proclamation, ratified by then Governor Mike Huckabee, making February in Arkansas "Women's Heart Disease Awareness Month". I've continued the tradition each and every February since, and am thrilled to see what started as an individual platform take root into a national tradition.  I'll never forget that first year, when Governor Huckabee looked at me and said "You're the Heart Disease lady; how's that going?"  That conversation turned into a partnership with the Governor that would change the way Arkansan's think about their health. In 2003 our lay-lobbyist group (You're the Cure, of which I serve as chairman) helped oversee the creation of Act 1220.  Act 1220 created guidelines for children's health and wellness, and set regulations for diet and physical activity in public schools.  It also was a landmark piece of legislation which added the BMI calculation to report cards for grade school children.  It hasn't been popular with everyone, but I believe it has been instrumental in the 3% decrease in childhood obesity we have seen on our state since that time.  In 2005 I was nominated to the Governor's Council on Fitness, and worked closely with the Governor as he changed the way Arkansan's viewed him, his health, and their own.  In 2006 we labored for and saw the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act.  The passage of this legislation was landmark for us, and was the result of several years of research, development, compromise and fighting.  Arkansas is now among several states in our nation whose citizens can enjoy public spaces free of carcenogenic cigarette smoke.  I cannot tell you how proud I am of the fact that I am on the team that makes those changes a reality.  This legislative session we are again working on many life saving law changes.  Last session we worked extremely hard to see the creation of a Crisis  System, which would ensure each Arkansan access to advanced emergency care in the event of a stroke in a matter of life-saving moments.  Sadly, our efforts were unsuccessful.  I pray and believe we will win our legislative battle this year.  I've been so proud to be part of a law changing, life saving team.  Yes, I love this February, and all the eight February's before, each of which represent for me a life changing, life saving year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Get Active in the "Heart For Women" movement!

Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 killer of American women. In fact, the situation has become so urgent that even our paper doll had to speak out – listen to what she has to say.

We also need you to hear your voice! In honor of American Heart Month, please sign your “Red Dress Paper Doll” Petition asking your lawmakers to do their part to cure heart disease and stroke by co-sponsoring the HEART for Women Act. Each Paper Doll Petition we receive will strengthen our symbolic chain of hope, and put more pressure on Congress to enact this vital piece of legislation that can improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and stroke.

Dear Member of Congress:

I am writing this letter as your constituent and someone who cares deeply about heart health to urge you to take a stand for women’s lives.

Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 killer of American women, claiming the lives of nearly 400,000 American women each year. And yet many women do not even realize they are at risk – nor do their physicians.

The HEART for Women Act (S. 573/H.R. 1014) is needed to help make women and their healthcare providers aware that cardiovascular disease is not just a “man’s disease” and to eliminate disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and stroke in women.

The American Heart Association is a strong supporter of the HEART for Women Act and has launched a “Red Dress Paper Doll” petition to demonstrate to Congress the widespread support this bill has around the country. Just since the campaign launched last February, nearly 30,000 Americans have signed the paper doll petition in support of the HEART for Women Act and another 36,000 people have sent e-mails to their Members of Congress about the bill.

The HEART for Women Act can help millions of women live longer, healthier lives. Please help current and future victims of heart attack and stroke – perhaps your mother, wife, sister, daughter, or friend – by co-sponsoring the HEART for Women Act.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Arkansas Retired Teachers Association Meeting 2008

God has been so incredibly good to me. When I nearly lost my mother to heart disease I prayed that He would give me a voice. I asked that He use me as His instrument to save the lives of women across the state and around the nation. He has answered that prayer, and answered it abundantly. Today I was given the opportunity to speak to the Arkansas Retired Teachers Association. In the audience were some 257 ladies, all of whom desperately needed to hear this life saving message. Several months ago I was contacted by to speak at a local Altrusa club meeting. It was a small gathering of only a handful, but we had a great "heart health" program, and wonderful fellowship. In that handful of ladies was Ms. Janet Burks, one of the most delightful ladies I have had the opportunity to meet. Ms. Burks also happens to be on the board of the ARTA. Ms. Burks and I kept in contact over the intervening months, and she asked me to speak at a few of their smaller gatherings. Those gatherings lead to me being asked to be the Keynote Speaker for their yearly event. What an honor! I'm rarely nervous when speaking, but I have to admit I had a serious case of the nerves standing in front of the individuals who molded my mind. It was a great day, and a fabulous event. Every time I wonder "is it time for me to retire?" God places another event like this in my path. I'll continue to spread this message until there are none left to hear it! What a great day! Thank you Janet, and the board of the ARTA, for allowing me this wonderful opportunity.

Monday, February 18, 2008

After months of work, Heart Ball 2008 was a smashing success!!

I've been an advocate with the American Heart Association for almost 8 years. During that time I've worked as a board member, a state and national spokesperson, and for the last two years a grass roots advocate (that's a nice word for lobbyist!). However, I have to say that my most recent role has been one of the most enjoyable and most fiscally rewarding for the AHA. Last March my husband and I were asked to become part of one of the nations leading fund raising events for the AHA, the Central Arkansas Heart Ball. One can volunteer for the AHA for decades and not be asked to be part of this event, so even the invitation was thrilling. Better still was the fact that I was asked to be part of the auction board; the individuals who actually find the items that make this event the fund raising success it is. Believe it or not, Arkansas has the largest and most successful Heart Ball in the nation. This year the Heart Ball director, Carol Dyer, was awarded the AHA's highest commendation for her efforts with making the ball what it has become.
What began as a series of brainstorming sessions for the auction committee turned into a superb evening of fund raising. We were so blessed to have donor support from around the state, and even several generous donors from outside our borders. Silent and live auction items were received very warmly by those in attendance, and at the end of the evening we were able to raise slightly more than 1.1 million dollars for the AHA! That number is mind blowing for me. I've worked for the better part of a decade on Heart Walks across the nation. Most walks are lucky to raise $25,000 to $35,000, with some of the largest in the $200,000 range. To be part of an event that raises that much money for this life saving institution in one evening was just so humbling and rewarding. God has blessed me so richly through my work with the AHA. I know that each heart I touch through the AHA I am also touching for Him.