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13th annual Sweetheart Gala is Saturday

Festive evening helps advance the fight against cardiovascular disease

February 28, 2010
Messenger News

On Saturday, at the Fort Dodge Country Club, we will celebrate the 13th annual Sweetheart Gala. We have been involved all 13 years because we personally know cardiovascular disease and the effect it has on family. Both of our fathers have experienced heart disease and stroke. Deb's father, Phil, experienced his first heart attack at age 66. He's had a second heart attack and two strokes in the last 19 years. Casey's dad, Lee, had a devastating stroke 15 years ago, and continues to deal with that event every day of his life. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in Iowa and throughout the United States. The continuous efforts and hard work of the American Heart Association have directly impacted our families. Dietary advice, along with advances in medications, stents and pacemakers have allowed them to lead productive lives and watch their grandsons graduate from college and take management positions in our business.

The Sweetheart Gala is a way for our community to do its part to help fight this disease. Each year we select an honorary chair, who describes their personal battle with the disease. Barb O'Connor has graciously accepted our invitation to share her story about her late husband, lifelong Fort Dodge businessman Bob O'Connor. Bob was a great community-minded individual who was always willing to lend a helping hand. His compassion and kindness have truly been missed. All of our previous honorary chairs tell a special story regarding family, Fort Dodge and Trinity Regional Medical Center.

Although heart disease and stroke affects both men and women, the emphasis in the past has focused more on men and heart disease. The ''Go Red for Women'' movement encourages women to take action against heart disease and to visit their health care provider each year to control blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. The most startling statistic of all is that one in three women's deaths are attributed to heart disease and more women die from the disease than the next five causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. The positive realization is the fact that there are many simple changes that women and men can make to greatly reduce their chances of being affected by this disease. The American Heart Association's movement is a united front calling on all Americans and their employers to live longer, more heart-healthy lives through active lifestyles; which include diet and exercise. A healthy diet and staying active through sports, walking, running or working out, are what make the difference when it comes to our heart health. Taking the stairs instead of the escalator seems cliche, but small changes in a lifestyle can have a huge impact on overall health and well-being.

What the American Heart Association does for heart disease is absolutely integral to fighting the disease, improving medication and procedures, and helping those affected live happier, healthier, more prosperous lives. In 2008 and 2009, 236 multi-year studies at 40 different research institutions across the Midwest were conducted costing nearly $30 million. Examples of some of the studies are: Helping stroke survivors regain manual skills; reducing hospitalization rate of heart failure patients, and reducing tissue damage caused by heart disease and stroke. Each one of these studies was conducted by an institution in the Midwest, including the University of Iowa and Iowa State. Without the funding from generous donors and communities, none of these vital studies would take place. Anything that can be done to share just ''one'' more happy moment with a loved one makes everything the Heart Association does completely worthwhile and extremely important.

So what happens the night of the event, and what is the appropriate attire? The theme of the evening calls for ''elegant tropical attire.'' Which for the women is usually a floral cocktail dress and for the men anything from a suit with a tropical-type shirt to black tie if so desired. The event begins with appetizers provided by Hy-Vee at 6 p.m. The live auction, featuring Keith Dencklau, which includes 18 wonderful items, will start at 6:30 followed by dinner and dancing. Dave Halden will be the DJ for the evening and dancing will conclude at midnight. There will also be 70 unique silent-auction items to bid on throughout the night, as well as an all night dessert buffet. All of the live- and silent-auction items were donated by local businesses and individuals and 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to the American Heart Association.

We are profoundly grateful for the hard work and dedication of the Sweetheart Gala Committee members in making this event possible. All of their efforts are greatly appreciated.

This evening is incredibly important and is devoted to fighting a disease that touches so many lives in our families and communities. If you would like to attend the event please call Deb Johnson at 576-7394 or Fort Dodge Ford Toyota at 576-7505 to reserve your seat. The 2010 Sweetheart Gala Committee welcomes you to our event, to our family, and thanks you for your support and generosity in helping to fight such a worthy and courageous cause.

Casey and Deb Johnson are the Sweetheart Gala co-chairs.



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