The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, welcomed more than 130 supporters back to the Lancaster Heart Ball on Saturday, April 30 at the Lancaster Country Club. It was the first time the event was held in-person since February 2020. The campaign raised nearly $120,000 for the American Heart Association.
“It’s been more than two years since we gathered for the Heart Ball, but the American Heart Association has still been raising funds and helping our community,” said Justin Walzl, a cardiology nurse practitioner at WellSpan Health and president of the American Heart Association’s Lancaster/Lebanon Board of Directors. “Over the past two years, we’ve worked with sponsors to distribute CPR training kits to schools, hospitals and community organizations, convened community leaders to address the youth vaping epidemic, provided more local students with access to clean drinking water at school and we’re working now with local health clinics to help patients manage their blood pressure.”
Katelyn Smith of WGAL 8 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. It also recognized local health care leaders and presented its first Live Fierce, Take Action Award to Dr. Michael Ripchinski, Chief Clinical Officer at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health for his leadership of the health system’s COVID-19 response in Lancaster County. The award was presented by Kathy Kravitz of Barley Snyder, which sponsored the award.
“Dr. Ripchinski stood out as a leader in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to lead efforts to establish the community vaccination center and implementing public health interventions to limit the spread of the virus,” said Kravitz. “We are grateful for Dr. Ripchinski’s leadership over the last few years and for the efforts of all healthcare workers that worked tirelessly to take care of patients.”
“I am incredibly appreciative of the American Heart Association, the Lancaster Heart Ball planning committee, and Barley Snyder for this award,” said Dr. Ripchinski. “I’m honored to accept it on behalf of the entire LG Health team who have worked tirelessly over the last two years for patients, families, and the communities we serve. I am grateful for all of their efforts in COVID-19 education, testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations.”
In addition to a silent and live auction, guests supported the cause through the Open Your Heart appeal featuring the story of local real estate agent Andy Esbenshade. Andy’s father, Dr. John Esbenshade Jr., was a cardiologist in Lancaster for many years and diagnosed Andy with a heart murmur when he was 17 years old. At age 40, Andy was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve after a family doctor detected an irregularity during a routine physical. The valve was still in good condition at the time, but after 24 years of regular check-ups and monitoring, doctors determined it was time for a valve replacement. Andy underwent his valve replacement surgery in August 2021 and was back to work within weeks.
“I learned a few things coming away from this experience,” said Esbenshade. “I was lucky to have a father who was a cardiologist, lucky that I was diagnosed early and lucky that I had a great team of doctors who helped me through the experience. My father was an active supporter of the American Heart Association and as a teenager I helped him by going door to door handing out materials for their fundraising efforts. They’ve invested in research funding that leads to discoveries and treatments that are saving lives right here in Lancaster County today.”
The dollars raised by the Lancaster 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 Lancaster Heart Ball was sponsored by Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, Fulton Bank, Orthopedic Associates of Lancaster, Barley Snyder, WellSpan Health, Lancaster County Motors, First National Bank and First National Wealth Management and other generous contributors.
For more information about supporting the 2023 Lancaster Heart Ball campaign, contact Alek Tomazin at [email protected] or 717-730-1701.