Wednesday, April 7, 2010

National Start! Walking Day…The Fun! Begins

Today, April 7, is National Start! Walking Day, an American Heart Association initiative that encourages all of us to bring our tennis shoes to work, lace ‘em up and take a 30 minute walk…not just today, but every day. How easy is that? The event also builds support for the annual and oh-so-fun Start! Heart Walk 5k fundraising walk slated for the fall. It’s one of the best ways to stay fit and spend time with family and friends while raising money to fight heart disease and stroke.

This morning marked my first AHA volunteer event for 2010. I woke up much earlier than usual, put on my figurative volunteer hat, battled 110 North traffic, and made it to downtown L.A.’s Union Bank at 7:30 a.m. to help AHA’s L.A. County Division set up for the kick-off Start! Walking Day celebration. It was so much fun! At 7:30 in the morning! I couldn’t believe it. Apparently, passion and adrenaline will kick you into high gear when you’re usually just rolling out of bed, wiping sleep from your eyes.

Back to the story: I along with other volunteers joined AHA staff in decorating the Union Bank outdoor plaza. We set up tables, posted directional signs, and layed down the movement’s iconic green footsteps to help guide the 1,000+ participants expected to arrive later that morning. And, like the Heart Champions’ Reception mentioned in the previous blog, this event connected me with with cool people, like Cal State L.A. students amped-up about supporting a good cause.

Though I couldn’t stay for the entire downtown kick-off extravaganza, when I got to work a group of us who usually walk separately decided to band together and walk as a team; it was one co-worker’s first time walking for lunch, which means I’ve done my job for the day. Gold star for Tinisha.

With cardiovascular disease being the #1 killer of Americans, walking just 30 minutes a day is the least we can do to reduce our risks. An AHA email I received suggests walking to lunch, having a walking meeting instead of meeting in stuffy conference rooms, and switching out smoking breaks for walking breaks. I’m no athlete, but I can and do walk 30 minutes 4 or 5 days out of the week. It’s relaxing, it’s me-time, and it’s good for my heart, which means it’s good for my family who’d like to keep me around as long as possible. (Muah, love you guys.)

I’m looking forward to the 2010 Los Angeles Start! Heart Walk on October 23 at the Rose Bowl. It was great fun last year, so I’ll be looking to expand my team this year. Stay tuned for details and my next AHA volunteer event that supports awareness and healthy hearts.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Feels Like Home: Finding a Place to Advocate and Serve through the Local AHA

Last night I had the chance to visit the American Heart Association office serving Los Angeles County. It was an artsy Dowtown office with exposed brick walls, open space and red dresses designed and donated by FIDM students. I was already in love. I was among the first guests to arrive, so I had a chance to chat with two people before others arrived. It was easy and laid back. Turns out, one of the fellows I was chatting with sits on the AHA Board. He was careful to remember everyone’s name and offered amazing insight into the organization and how it’s benefited him. Specifically, he loved connecting with people like those gathered last night: cardiovascular disease/defect survivors and their supporters.

Our intimate group of 12 spent the evening sharing survival stories and connecting in a way that made me feel like I was home. It was inspiring to hear the experiences of every survivor, including that of our youngest guest: a 2 ½ year old who’d already undergone two open heart surgeries. Her parents had several of us tearing up. We spent the rest of our time learning more about the AHA, how it allocates its funds, and how it advocates for heart disease/defect patients locally and nationally. It was the first time I got a firm understanding of all the ways I could volunteer to support a cause directly benefiting my family, my friends, my community and me. Plus, as the Board member aptly stated, I’ll meet more amazing folks like those who shared their experiences last night.

I sought out the AHA last year to learn how I could get involved. My first event was the Los Angeles Heart Walk. This year, I encouraged my office-mates to Go Red for Women for National Wear Red Day. But the organization also sends volunteers and staff to lobby in their state capital and D.C. You can also stuff bags for events or just wear one of the many AHA pins to help raise awareness or prompt someone to ask about your survival story.

If you're a survivor or supporter, check out your local AHA, you’ll find that they want and need your story as they strive to win the fight against America’s #1 killer: heart disease, and #3 killer: stroke.