Last weekend, I took a quick trip to Little Rock, Arkansas for the American Heart Association Heart Ball. As you have probably presumed, this is a fundraising, black-tie, gala of an affair. My connection with this particular heart association is my mother, Roxana Whitner. She served on the committee for years organizing the sweethearts (teenage girls that volunteer hundreds of service hours). This year, the association honored her with the Worthen-Cornett Award. As a family, we attended to celebrate and recognize her. The ball raised money for the association through tickets, donations and an auction. My mother even made a beautiful heart-themed quilt which brought in over $3,000 for the AHA. Visit the AHA website to donate and even specify a particular branch, maybe local to you, where you wish the money to help. Local heart balls can also be found on the website or possibly just googling heart ball in your area.
Lindsey and I had an amazing evening and enjoyed our time with family but I should point out that the ball means so much more to me. The American Heart Association is important to me in a deeper way, more personal even than its relation to my mother. I was born with a congenial heart defect – Pectus Excavatum, which also affects the respiratory system. I had successful corrective surgery and now run marathons. My story seems so familiar that I feel it pales in comparison to that of my younger brother. This past weekend was spent with my mother’s side (or three sisters’ side) of my family but on my dad’s side I have four brothers. My brother Robert was born with a heart condition Tricuspid Atresia. He underwent many surgeries as an infant and was prescribed a daily medicine. He couldn’t play contact sports in a town that bled football but maintained a sport’s identity by excelling in tennis and baseball. Now a college graduate, he is entering into his second year as a landscape architect in Houston. Though his condition still affects some areas of his life, the research, operations, and medications, often products of organizations like the AHA, have allowed him to live. Combined with his personal strength and strong personality, they have helped him to become an active, vibrant young man.