Capital Region Heart Ball raises $335,000 for American Heart Association

Jim Hoehn

The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, welcomed close to 250 supporters back to the Capital Region Heart Ball on Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Hershey Lodge. The campaign, led by chair Jim Hoehn, regional president for PNC Bank in Central Pennsylvania, raised more than $335,000 for the American Heart Association.

“The American Heart Association has been funding research, educating the community and saving lives for almost 100 years and the support of everyone at the Heart Ball is an important way that we can ensure this legacy continues,” said Maher Hanna, vice president of operations at Penn State Health and chair of the American Heart Association’s South Central PA Board of Directors. “Over the past year, the American Heart Association distributed CPR in Schools training kits to local schools, supplied blood pressure cuffs to local health clinics to allow patients to manage their blood pressure at home and improved access to nutritious foods at local food banks.”

Tom Russell of CBS21 News hosted the evening’s dinner program that recognized event sponsors and volunteers for their contributions to the American Heart Association and its work in the community.

Maher Hanna

One volunteer receiving special recognition was Christian C. Merritt, III, vice president and investment and trust services regional manager at F&M Trust, the winner of the 2022 South Central PA Leaders of Impact campaign. Merritt raised $36,388 for the American Heart Association during the campaign period from Sept. 29 through Nov. 15, 2022. He ranked first among all Leaders of Impact nominees in Pennsylvania and eleventh in the country.

Christian C. Merritt, III

“I got involved with the Leaders of Impact campaign to honor my grandfather, and also my mother’s siblings, who share a history of cardiac events – it’s personal for me,” said Merritt.

In addition to a silent and live auction, guests supported the cause through the Open Your Heart appeal led by open heart surgery survivor Kara Clouser of New Bloomfield. Clouser was preparing for the birth of her second daughter when she ended up in the hospital fighting an infection that would eventually go septic and spread to her heart. Thanks to the advanced surgical procedures available locally, Kara was able to avoid a highly invasive valve replacement procedure and opt for a valve repair surgery, which would likely produce longer lasting results and have a shorter recovery time. The surgery was a success and Kara was able to get back on her feet within a few weeks of her surgery to run her photography business and finally hold her infant daughter for the first time.

Kara’s surgeon, Dr. Mubashir Mumtaz from UPMC, was unable to attend in person, but sent a letter that was read by UPMC in Central PA President Lou Baverso.

“Kara is a phenomenal person with a positive outlook on life and a deep love for her family,” said Dr. Mumtaz. “It is very satisfying for surgeons to see their patients’ years after surgery and see the difference our services have made in their lives. Kara is one such patient. She has done amazing and she is making all of us who were involved in her care look good. I am very thankful to our team and all of the hospital staff for taking such good care of her.”

Kara Clouser

The dollars raised by the Capital Region Heart Ball fund the mission of the American Heart Association to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives while working toward the Association’s 2024 Health Equity Impact Goal, reducing barriers to health care access and quality.

This year’s Capital Region Heart Ball is sponsored by UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, PNC Bank, Capital Blue Cross, Bath Fitter, Highmark, Sun Motor Cars, United Concordia Dental, M&T Bank, Rite Aid, The GIANT Company and other generous contributors.

Photos and event highlights can be found on our Facebook page @AHAPennsylvania and more information is available at

For more information about supporting the 2024 Capital Region Heart Ball campaign, which will be chaired by Lou Baverso, president of UPMC in Central PA, and celebrate the American Heart Association’s 100th anniversary, contact Kristie Davis at or 717-730-1743.