Sweetheart Gala is March 3

Join us for one of the community’s most anticipated annual events: The Webster County American Heart Association’s Sweetheart Gala. This is a wonderful chance to have a fun-filled evening supporting a great cause. This year’s event will be held Saturday, March 3 at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn. The Starlite will be transformed into an elegant landscape, thanks to the generosity of Barb Vonsak. It will be filled with delicious all-night desserts and outstanding live and silent auction items. The evening begins with a social hour at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 6:45. We will have a short program at 7:30 where we will hear from local doctors about the impact of the funding and research of the American Heart Association on a local level. The animated and entertaining auctioneer Keith Denklau and M.C. Casey Johnson will conduct the live auction beginning at 7:45. This dynamic duo makes the live auction entertainment in itself. After the live auction, be prepared to dance the night away with Dean Vinchattle starting at 8:30. All the while, the silent auction will be taking place so be sure to check your bids; it will close at 10 p.m.

This will be the21st Sweetheart Gala held in Fort Dodge and we are continually appreciative of the generosity and combined efforts of the businesses and citizens in Webster County. The American Heart Association’s mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke, which is the leading cause of death in the state of Iowa. Cardiovascular disease also touches the lives of many Americans, claiming the lives of 2,300 Americans each day, one every 38 seconds. The effects of cardiovascular disease reaches around the world, ranking first in the global cause of death, accounting for more than 17.9 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030 if there isn’t research and intervention. Without a doubt, the statistics regarding heart disease and stroke are staggering, proving the dire need for support.

When considering whether or not to support an organization, most people are most interested in exactly how the funds are utilized in aiding the mission. I’m proud to share that the American Heart Association funds more research on cardiovascular disease and stroke than any United States organization except the federal government. In all, 80 cents of every dollar raised is spent on research, education and community outreach. The organization has invested more than $4 billion in research nationwide since 1949. This has funded 13 Nobel Prize winners and many important medical breakthroughs.

Many groundbreaking studies and programs are happening right here in Iowa. Over the last five years, 94 studies funded by the American Heart Association have been conducted in Iowa. While heavy concentrations of the studies were conducted at the University of Iowa, other institutions were also involved, including: Iowa State University, Coe College and Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center. Your contributions last year helped ensure all newborns are screened for critical congenital heart defects before leaving the hospital and that all Iowa high school students learn CPR prior to graduation. The funds also enabled over 146, 000 Iowa residents to be trained in live-saving CPR and First Aid. The Mission: Lifeline initiative developed statewide guidelines for the care of heart attack patients, provided vital equipment for rural EMS agencies and hospitals, and are implementing public and professional education that span the entire system of care.

An extremely exciting enterprise on the horizon for the American Heart Association is their new One Brave Idea Science Innovation Center, which opened in October 2017. The AHA joined forces with Verily and AzstaZeneca to help fund this program. One Brave Idea is a $75 million research project, which aims to find new ways to solve the age-old problem of heart disease. This project’s focus is coronary heart disease (CHD), which is the buildup of plaque inside the arteries that keep a heart pumping. Too much plaque can block an artery, cutting off blood flow; that’s a heart attack. Coronary heart disease is the most common cardiovascular disease but is often not diagnosed until the late stages, which is too late in many cases. The One Brave Idea team is developing biomarkers for CHD or atherosclerosis that can define the earliest stages of the disease — such as young adulthood, or even childhood. These transformational technologies will lead to new therapies and novel strategies as they comprehend the trajectory of atherosclerosis from before birth through adulthood. You can find more information on this revolutionary research enterprise at onebraveidea.com.

Although it is nice to see the statistics and progress being made, what matters most are the lives the statistics represent. Considering that heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death in Iowa, it is likely that you or someone you know has been affected by this terrible disease. It’s a very personal matter to many of us. My passion and involvement with the American Heart Association is driven by my personal connection to cardiovascular health. Both my husband and I come from families with a history of heart disease. Nine months ago, we welcomed our daughter into the world and my purpose to help fight this disease is stronger than ever, with the goal of creating a healthier America for her generation. What gives me and many others hope are the many stories of survival. There is a great comfort in knowing that with each contribution and as medical advancements take place, the hope for our future in heart health is brighter than it has ever been.

None of this would be possible without our generous, community-minded businesses and individuals. This year’s sponsors include: CJ Bio America, Fort Dodge Ford Toyota, Iowa Heart Center, Mike and Darcy Lee, Cargill, Country Financial, Dr. Leopoldo and Judy Delucca, Iowa Central Community College, Dr. Matt and Laura Maggio, Dr. Jim and Ann Meyer, Drs. Francisco and Cecille Peralta, Wells Fargo, First State Bank, Gunderson Funeral Home, Nielson Financial Management, Kemna Auto, KHI Solutions, Nestle Purina Pet Care, Northwest Bank, Shimkat Motors, Stumpy’s Bar and Grill, Stumpy’s Snow and Mow, Unity Point Clinics, Woodruff Constructionm Baker Electric, Beasley Family Foundation, Decker Truck Line, Tom and Linda Donner, Doyle Construction, Exit Realty, Fort Dodge Asphalt, Great Western Bank, Dr. Mark and Shelly Hartman, Laufersweiler-Sievers Funeral Home, McGough Construction, The Messenger, Barbara Michaels, Pancheros, Luke and Amy Palmer, Riley Armstrong Plumbing & Heating, Soldier Creek Winery, Starlite and Buford’s, Barb Vonsak, Lincoln and Kelly Wallace and White Transfer and Storage. Along with our sponsors, we have many generous individuals and businesses that donate live and silent auction items to raise money at our event. We sincerely thank you all for your continued support.

This is going to be a fantastic event supporting a live-saving organization. It’s a great chance to have fun with friends eating a delicious assortment of food and dancing. Please join us March 3 for this fun-filled evening. If you’re interested in coming, please call 576-7505. On behalf of the entire Sweetheart Gala Committee, we hope to see you there.

Abigail Johnson chairs the Sweetheart Gala Committee.