In loss, New Hampshire teen heart survivor found her purpose
The American Heart Association has selected the 2022-2023 class of Youth Heart Ambassadors to be the face and voice in the Associations’ in-school initiatives. Ella Denney, a 17-year-old Gilford High School student, was selected as one of ten youth across the country for this volunteer role.
The Association accepted nominations from youth across the country who have been affected by heart disease or stroke – either through a personal diagnosis or a diagnosis of a loved one – or who have made a personal lifestyle change. Youth Heart Ambassadors serve a one-year commitment as an Association volunteer assisting the organization to be a relentless force for healthier lives for all. The position gives youth a voice to underscore the need to raise critical funding as they share the impact cardiovascular disease has had on their lives.
Denney says her dad was her everything. He was her hero, her No. 1 fan and her best friend. Since his death from a heart attack, and her own heart disease diagnosis, he’s become her inspiration to help others. In 2020, the pageant winner and competitive dancer was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, which causes the heart to beat erratically, affecting its upper chambers.
She shares her personal journey with heart disease to actively and passionately champion other children to establish healthy habits. “Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know what it was,” she said. “Education is key. With the Association, I can fulfill my goal of helping people live with healthier hearts.”
Youth Heart Ambassadors work closely with the Association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge. With deep roots in physical activity, these programs have expanded beyond the gym to meet the needs of today’s youth and educators as science has proven the strong connection between physical and mental health. Both programs’ curriculums help prepare youth for success by supporting their physical and emotional well-being.
“I want to use my own experiences with heart disease to let others know they are not alone,” said Denney.
Schools interested in participating in either Kids Heart Challenge or American Heart Challenge to receive expanded curriculum resources for both classrooms and in-home learning environments can register now for these programs. To learn more, visit: www.heart.org/schools. More information on Youth Ambassadors can be found here: heart.org/youthambassadors.