Welcome to the The WSA Exchange, for healthy hearts and minds. Kathy Rogers, American Heart Association Western States Affiliate Executive Vice President will share stories from across the affiliate.
The Greater Bay Area Division welcomed more than 5,000 walkers gathered in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza last Friday for the first of four Heart Walks – this one featuring fan favorite Bruce Bochy, manager of the city’s beloved Giants (pictured left).
Sporting team T-shirts from Union Bank, AT&T, Oracle and Charles Schwab, the lunchtime crowd waited for the official start of the 5K by visiting booths to learn how to do hands-only CPR, spinning the “Wheel of Health” for a chance to win prizes like hand sanitizer and lip balm and gathering information about the merits of physical activity, good nutrition and heart health.
Kicking off the event were AHA Great Bay Area board chairman Chris Tsakalakis, heart disease survivor, Elaine Genevro – Union Bank presenting sponsor and Bochy, a heart disease survivor, avid walker and author of “A Book of Walks.” This year’s top fundraiser also hails from the Giants. He’s EVP of ticket sales and had not been involved with the American Heart Association until recently when he survived a quadruple bypass. In a matter of weeks, he personally raised over $50,000!
Media coverage included morning and evening segments on Major League Baseball (Comcast/NBC Sports Network), Bay Area affiliate stations of ABC and FOX, including a live shot from a helicopter hovering above the 5,000 walkers.
Kelly Leeper is a survivor and volunteer with the American Heart Association. He has used his platform as a survivor to raise funds and awareness for our mission.
I was born on May 21, 1984 with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). It wasn’t until I was three days old that my mom sensed something was wrong with me and took me to the doctor. I stopped breathing the moment we walked through the door. After a day of testing and eventually getting moved to the hospital, my parents were summoned into a conference room with a host of doctors ready to tell them the news. They gave my parents two choices, “you can leave him here and we will care for him while he dies, or you can take him home to die.” Being a father of two I can’t even imagine what that must have felt like. My parents pleaded with them that there must be something they could do. One doctor said he read an article about an experimental surgery being done on the East Coast, but that they would have to get me there right away. We left within a day for Boston. I was given a 5% chance of living long enough to have the first of two necessary surgeries. I was six days old when I had my first open heart surgery and was two years old when I had my second surgery. At the time, I was only the sixth person in the world to have that procedure performed.
I have had a very normal life because my parents have always treated me the same as my siblings. I was allowed to play all sorts of sports growing up, although I did and do get fatigued much sooner than most people. I played flag football in junior high and tennis in high school. I also started snowboarding and surfing in high school and played hockey after college. Over the years, I have learned to monitor myself and to recognize when I need a break.
I married my beautiful wife when I was 24 years old and now have two wonderful daughters who are four and two years old. My faith has always been strong. I believe in miracles, because I recognize I am one. I started off with a 5% chance of living and am convinced that I was saved to be an inspiration and provide hope to parents of HLHS children that their child can still live a full life.
Thank you to all American Heart Association volunteers and staff – your work makes a difference in the lives of others!
Kids With Heart is a special WSA-only program designed to recognize some of our youngest survivors and volunteers.
WSA Kids With Heart appoints young heart disease and stroke survivors to be ambassadors for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. These kiddos help our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke by inspiring others with their stories and encouraging support for and participation in youth programs such as Jump Rope For Heart, Hoops For Heart and our newest youth program, The Great Replay.
When a parent or child fills out the Kids With Heart online form and shares their story, they receive a welcome letter from the AHA as well as welcome bag that contains a Kids With Heart cape or T-shirt and various other fun giveaways. With approval from the child and parents, it is added to the website along with their picture.
Share this resource with kids you know and meet who would like to be recognized in this special way!
***Pictured right is WSA Heart Hero Sofia Montoya who was saved by CPR. Check out her remarkable story!
Fantastic news out of Montana!
We recently delivered (via helicopter!) the first of 400 Infant CPR Anytime® kits from Reach Air Medical Services to Bozeman Deaconess Health in Bozeman, Montana. The hospital will be distributing the kits to families with high-risk infants. Check out the great story featured in Bozeman Health News…
Our Infant CPR Anytime personal learning program makes it possible for anyone to learn how to relieve choking infant and perform infant CPR. The kit contains everything needed to learn skills in about 20 minutes, and it can be used anywhere, from the comfort of home to a large community group setting.
Thank you to the volunteers and staff who made this great success possible!