Karen Magee, president of NYSUT, chaired the 2016 Capital Region Heart Walk. She took some time to look back at the year, and is this week’s guest blogger.
My dad is my “why,” I said as I began the year. My dad, who lost his lifelong battle with heart disease just a few short years ago, who was and is my inspiration, was the reason I agreed enthusiastically to chair the 2016 Heart Walk.
As the year progressed, though, other whys crept into my life. Like Eliana, the “Heart Princess” who is so full of life and joy that it’s hard to fathom that, but for advances made in the preceding decade by researchers, she would not have lived past her first week. Or Paula, who bristles at the notion that she is a “survivor” but gleefully accepts her role as “Stroke Ambassador” to remind us all of what is possible even after a stroke. As more and more faces were put to terms like “heart disease” and “stroke,” another faceless, soulless term—“research dollars”—took on added life to me. I realized that every time I asked a family member, or a friend, or a colleague for a donation to the cause, there were very real people that were reaping the benefits. I will never meet most of them, of course, but I don’t have to… I see the impact of the work done by the AHA, and in my mind’s eye magnify it a million-fold. It’s all the inspiration I need to remain closely dedicated to this life-changing work!
I also saw the impact of the AHA’s campaign on an everyday basis, at NYSUT Headquarters. I’m blessed with a dedicated group of several hundred employees that work hard every day to support NYSUT’s 600,000+ members. Thinking of how heart disease and stroke affect 1 in 3 Americans today, that put me in a position to positively impact more than 200,000 lives right here. Talk about an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up! We worked hard to educate people about the realities of heart disease and stroke, and encouraged them to take proactive steps to ensure that they improved or maintained their heart health. Just in our headquarters building, it was inspiring to see employees taking the stairs, initiate and grow a Weight Watchers chapter, and make better nutrition choices on a daily basis as our message resonated.
My tenure as chair of the Heart Walk has concluded, but my involvement—and NYSUT’s—with the American Heart Association will continue for as long as it’s needed!