The American Heart Association (AHA), the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives depends on a dedicated group of people who are willing to give their time and energy to help enhance quality of life across their communities. The 2021 Volunteer Awards were presented to forty-four Eastern States region volunteers, including survivors, physicians, and volunteer leaders from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia and Washington, D.C. These honorees demonstrate outstanding commitment to the cause and extraordinary collaborative achievement to advance the AHA’s mission to improve health and well-being for all.
“Our volunteers are a driving force of the mission of the American Heart Association,” said Soula Antoniou, Executive Director of the American Heart Association. “I am thrilled that five leaders from the Greater Washington Region have been recognized for their inspiring dedication and tireless commitment to their community.”
The Young Hearts Awards recognized any young person within the region for their outstanding contribution and exceptional support of the Association’s mission and goals. This award went to Lara Asch. Since sharing her story with Heart.org in 2019 at the age of 10 when she was diagnosed with high cholesterol and high triglycerides despite staying active with gym classes at school, tennis and dance, Asch worked hard to turn her numbers around and is now very careful about her diet. She has become an advocate for healthy eating and has used her experience as a platform to raise awareness for other kids. Asch has worked on advocacy initiatives around Physical Education in Schools and healthy kids meals. She has helped to write “You’re The Cure” alerts to gain support for critical policy issues and has shared her story across the Association and at events. In addition to inspiring many people, she has motivated her family to advocate in support of healthy kids meals as well. Her father, cardiologist Dr. Federico Asch, serves as the current president of the AHA’s GWR board and has been a leading voice in many advocacy campaigns across the community. ”Lara has been so brave at such a young age to share her story and use it to impact others,” added Antoniou. “She is an inspirational young leader and we’re lucky to have her and her family as volunteer leaders!”
The Leadership Legacy Award recognized volunteers for exceptional service and contributions to the Eastern States region over a significant time. A big congratulations goes to long-time volunteer leader Rob Franklin for receiving this recognition. Franklin has been an integral part of the Greater Washington Region board of directors over the years and currently serves on the Eastern States board of directors. As Chair for the GWR board from 2016 – 2018 Franklin was instrumental in the growth of campaigns and bringing on new donors. Through the events committee, he generated financial growth opportunities for the market. He and his wife Patti chaired the Heart Ball on two occasions. Franklin has also served on national committees with the AHA. “Rob has been part of the AHA family for a long time and has impacted the organization in so many ways on the local, regional and national levels,” said Antoniou.
The Distinguished Achievement Award recognized individuals who recently contributed significantly to the success of the Eastern States region or its local divisions. Tim Gillis, Managing Partner of KPMG and Dr. Roquell Wyche, Cardiologist at Chesapeake and Washington Heart Care were among two local recipients of this award.
Gillis previously served on the GWR board of directors from 2009 to 2019 and was board chair from 2011 to 2013. He also chaired the successful 2020 GWR Heart Walk throughout these unprecedented times. In addition to securing significant corporate sponsorships, Gillis has brought on a myriad of new companies, executives, and donors. His leadership resulted in the Walk’s record-breaking “Executives with Heart” campaign, raising over $500,000. “Tim has been a relentless champion for the AHA,” said Antoniou. “His service is seen as a best-practice case study in volunteer and campaign chair leadership.”
Dr. Wyche has been a member of the GWR board since 2017 and served as president from 2018 to 2020. Dr. Wyche serves as an ambassador of the mission throughout the community. As board president, Dr. Wyche was the hypertension expert and acted as a subject matter expert for numerous media interviews, and has represented the AHA on local television networks, radio and in print. Last year, Dr. Wyche presented at digital events including the Go Red for Women Campaign Kick-off and numerous corporate educational events. She has conducted several training sessions, both in-person and virtual, to the AHA’s community health care partners on blood pressure management and science-based resources. “She personifies the AHA’s guiding values of speaking with a trustworthy voice, meeting people where they are, and bringing science to life as she works tirelessly to educate our community on the importance of heart health, particularly for women,” added Antoniou.
Finally, The Health Equity Leadership Award recognized volunteers whose leadership and efforts have reinforced the AHA’s commitment to achieving maximum impact in equitable health and well-being while addressing social influencers of health and advancing health outcomes with a strong commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. The AHA congratulates pediatrician and professor for the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, Dr. Yolandra Hancock. Dr. Hancock led the charge for passing the nation’s only comprehensive kids meals policy in Prince George’s County, MD, serving as the campaign’s chief spokesperson and strategist. Dr. Hancock also used her passion for nutrition and health equity to support the Nutrition Equity Act in Washington, DC. She educated Black and low-income residents about the dangers of sugar consumption, helped to foster a more equitable food environment across the District, and has facilitated several community listening sessions to better understand the gaps in services and programs in the Greater Washington Region. “Dr. Hancock is one of the most passionate and impactful advocates for addressing nutrition equity and healthy food access in our region,” said Antoniou.
To learn more about the work of the American Heart Association Greater Washington Region and volunteer opportunities visit www.heart.org/greaterwashington.