On April 28, about 240 supporters of the American Heart Association (AHA) gathered at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort (formerly Fess Parker) for the annual Heart Ball, which netted about $75,000 for the AHA’s research, advocacy, and patient support programs.
Guests mingled in the Grand Ballroom and Grand Foyer before being seated and welcomed by Event Chair Sarah Jaimes. She emphasized the importance of AHA’s work given that heart disease is still the number one cause of death for Americans and stroke is the number three cause in Santa Barbara County.
Montecito Bank & Trust Chair and CEO Janet Garufis expressed her deep gratitude to the AHA for its work and then introduced the event honoree, Renee Grubb. Garufis praised her dear friend, a business leader who co-founded Village Properties and a dedicated community leader. Garufis shared how Grubb’s passion for excellence carries over from her business life to her community service. Grubb co-founded the award-winning Teacher’s Fund to fund classroom supplies, was president of the S.B. Association of Realtors, chaired the Chamber of the S.B. Region, and is the newly elected board chair of AHA Central Coast. Garufis thanked Grubb for being one of the most extraordinary people she has ever known. Grubb graciously accepted the honor, shared how she has loved being part of the AHA for the past 20 years and praised all the staff and physicians who work with the organization.
Keynote speaker, 18-year-old Gracie Doran, suffered a stroke at age 10 that left her unable to walk, talk, or eat. After 14 surgeries, she shared how she is still partially paralyzed but considers herself one of the lucky ones. Relating her love for dance and how dance helped heal her body and soul, she explained how she founded a dance class for children with disabilities. She is also a proud spokesperson for the AHA, seeking to raise awareness about pediatric stroke. In a heartfelt appeal before the ask, she urged guests to donate to ensure that there can be many more lucky survivors like her.
Tristen, a precious survivor who spoke at last year’s Heart Ball and wanted to come back this year, delighted the audience once again with his story of survival. Tristen suffers from HLHS Syndrome, which left him with half a heart and necessitated four surgeries. Despite his ordeal, Tristan described himself as an otherwise normal 11-year-old who enjoys a life that is full of fun and adventures. He enthusiastically assisted Jaimes with the ask.
According to Board President Dr. Michael Shenoda, in the past decade, there has been a 29 percent decline in the rate of death due to heart disease because of advancements in medical therapy and changes in known heart disease risk factors. The AHA, according to Shenoda, has been at the forefront of this research and in heart health public education programs. An emergency three-hour surgery prevented Shenoda from speaking at the event, but this very dedicated physician and president did a quick wardrobe change and slipped into the event to greet supporters before they adjourned.
The American Heart Association has 156 local offices, a staff of more than 3,000, and more than 22 million volunteers and supporters. In addition to its research and education programs, it advocates for stronger public health policies and provides science-based treatment guidelines to healthcare professionals. It has invested more than $4 billion in research, more than any organization outside the federal government.
The Central Coast office organizes many fundraising events, including Heart Walks in San Luis Obispo (SLO), Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Heart Ball, and Go Red for Women Luncheons in Paso Robles, SLO, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria. The Santa Barbara Heart Walk will be on September 29, 2018, the luncheon is in February. The office educates the community through myriad programs, including hands-only CPR training at area high schools, provision of AHA materials to area healthcare providers, workplace seminars, and health fair participation. It also facilitates other AHA programs.
For more info about the AHA Central Coast, click here.
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By Gail Arnold