Maria Decker first became involved with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement in 2011, when SEFCU’s Chief Administrative Officer Barbara Hess invited her to a Circle of Red Meeting.
At that meeting, Decker heard a statistic that astounded her.
“When I heard that 1 in 3 women die of heart disease, I couldn’t believe it,” she said, and joined the Circle of Red – a giving society – on the spot. “We need to change that.”
Since then, Decker has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about women’s heart health. To honor her efforts, Decker will receive the 2021 Jane Golub Crystal Heart Award from the American Heart Association at the 2021 Go Red for Women Luncheon set for Friday, Nov. 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Albany Capital Center.
After joining the Circle of Red, Decker quickly became involved with the BetterU, the annual heart-health improvement program that about 12 women participate in, and whose efforts are showcased at the Go Red for Women Luncheon. Today, Decker is the chair of the BetterU program, which has now touched the lives of more than 120 women. Decker also chaired the Go Red for Women Luncheon in 2013, and is serving for the second time on the Capital Region Board of Directors of the American Heart Association.
“I’m really honored to receive this award,” Decker, who owns Maria’s Bowls and Smoothies and is manager of the River Street Market in Troy, said. “Jane Golub was someone who didn’t just show up at an event, she put everything she had into it. And I feel humbled to follow in the footsteps of past winners Dr. Suzie Mookherjee of Albany Med and Kathy Lanni of SEFCU.”
Decker, in fact, presented the Crystal Heart Award to Dr. Mookherjee in 2018. It was renamed the Jane Golub Crystal Heart Award the following year, after Jane Golub passed away.
Although Decker is committed to improving women’s heart health, it was her father’s early death from heart disease that set the stage for her future involvement with the American Heart Association. She was only 6 when he passed away. As a teenager, Decker and her brother Angelo Mazzone began working in their family’s Italian restaurant. Decker has worked in the food industry for many years, and emphasizes healthy, unprocessed food and regular exercise in her life, and of the people she loves.
“Working with the BetterU women is very rewarding,” she said. “Every year, a group of strangers becomes very close and support each other in really big ways. This year’s group faced special challenges. They started at the end of January in 2020, and we went remote in March 2020, then rescheduled the group to begin again in person in the summer of 2021. They have come back strong and worked so hard since then. I’m so proud of them.”
“Maria exemplifies the word community,” said Michele Kollmer, relationship manager, CAP COM at Work and co-chair of the 2021 Go Red for Women Luncheon. “She is selfless and continues to work with women to help them gain the confidence and knowledge to live a ‘heart-healthy’ life. As the co-chair of this year’s event, I’m proud to present Maria with the Crystal Heart award.”
“Maria’s incredible dedication and commitment to AHA is exceptional,” said Christianne Smith, owner of Designsmith Studio and co-chair of the 2021 Go Red for Women Luncheon. “Her insatiable desire to encourage and support, is experienced by everyone she meets. She is our mama bear, best friend, and soul sister wrapped into one. When I think of the heartbeat of the American Heart Association, I think of Maria first.”
“The Go Red for Women Luncheon is an incredible event,” Decker said. “I hope everyone comes to celebrate the success of the BetterU, hear the Go Red Talk, and learn how they can fight heart disease. I also want everyone to share the statistic that 1 in 3 women die of heart disease. Then I want them to take steps to change that.”
Decker is originally from Massapequa and now lives in Clifton Park with her husband, Bob. They have four children and six grandchildren.
For information or to purchase tickets, go to CapitalRegionNYGoRedLuncheon.heart.org.