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North Hills Monthly

Heart Ball Raises Funds for Research, Education and Advocacy

Jan 29, 2016 05:22PM ● By Erica Cebzanov
On February 20, the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) will hold its 27th annual Pittsburgh Heart Ball to raise money for cardiovascular and stroke research, education and advocacy. An expected 800 philanthropists and corporate and medical professionals will attend the black-tie affair at the Wyndham Grand downtown, which last year raised $1.2 million.

“We’re currently funding $8.5 million in research at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University,” said Shannon Lesnock, senior director for the heart ball. During the ball’s Open Your Heart Appeal, someone personally affected by heart disease and/or stroke will share his or her story and ask guests to consider making charitable donations to the AHA and ASA.

Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death, and stroke ranks second and is the leading cause of severe disability. The AHA and ASA are working to improve Americans’ cardiovascular health and death rates from stroke and heart disease by 20 percent by the year 2020.

The first heart ball was held in 1949 in New York City, with then-future President Dwight D. Eisenhower serving as an honored guest. Today, the nonprofits host more than 190 events nationwide, primarily in February in honor of American Heart Month. The Pittsburgh division’s other major initiatives include Heart Walk in fall and the Go Red for Women Luncheon in spring.

Highmark Health president and CEO David Holmberg will serve as this year’s event chairman. “Mr. Holmberg’s leadership is helping to drive the success of the heart ball,” said Lesnock. “He will welcome our guests from the stage at the event, recognizing their generosity and support, as we all come together to fight heart disease and stroke.”

A VIP reception will honor UPMC Artificial Heart Program Director Robert L. Kormos, MD, as the Peter J. Safar Pulse of Pittsburgh Award recipient for his efforts in fighting heart disease and stroke. Similarly, UPMC Passavant Advanced Practice Nurse Maggie Lattanzio, RN, will receive the Mary Ann Scully Excellence in Cardiovascular Nursing Award. A task force of local hospital leaders vote annually for the award winners. 

A volunteer committee chose this year’s theme of Deep in the Heart of Pittsburgh – Bowties, Boots & Ball Gowns. “We have an executive leadership team that supports our event chairman and helps with fundraising efforts,” said Lesnock. “We have volunteers who help welcome guests and aid with the auction, registration and seating. They also help guests check out at the end of the evening and answer questions.”

Hens and Chicks Florist will provide floral arrangements, and guests will dine on spinach salad and braised short ribs with barbecue shrimp. Apple crisp with cinnamon whipped cream will top off the meal. “The American Heart Association has a food and beverage tool kit we promote, and we adhere to it in order to ensure that we plan heart-healthy meals at our events,” Lesnock said.

KDKA-TV anchors Susan Koeppen and Bob Pompeani will serve as masters of ceremonies, encouraging participation in live and silent auctions. “Our live auction features exciting VIP experiences with our city’s champion sports teams,” said Chelsea Trimble, director of the heart ball. “We also have exciting travel abroad packages and one-of-a-kind items to create fun and exciting opportunities for our guests.” Following the auctions, guests will share a cardiovascular workout when dancing to Cityscape’s live music.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is the Pittsburgh Heart Ball’s presenting sponsor. Additional sponsors include UPMC, UPMC Health Plan, Accenture and PNC. Heart Ball tickets cost $500 with registration ending on Feb. 18.  

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