The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, welcomed over 240 supporters back to the Blair Go Red for Women event and fashion show on Thursday, May 26 at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona. It was the first time the event was held in-person since May 2019. The campaign, led by chair Tommi Burchfield, strategic partnership manager for Personal Care Medical Associates, raised nearly $70,000 for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement.
The event’s theme “Reclaim Your Rhythm” encouraged attendees to reprioritize their physical and mental health, which may have suffered during the pandemic.
“For nearly two decades the Go Red for Women movement has been making more women aware that heart disease is their greatest health threat and bringing this event to Blair County eight years ago was a way for us to bring that lifesaving message to local women in a fun way,” said Burchfield. “Through this event we’ve been able to reach hundreds of local women and celebrate our health care professionals who work every day to help their patients beat heart disease and stroke.”
Christy Shields, meteorologist at WTAJ-TV, hosted the evening’s program that included the presentation of the annual Heart Hall of Fame Award and Healthy Lifestyle Change Award.
The Heart Hall of Fame Award was presented to Sandra Lazor, a physician assistant in neurology at UPMC Altoona. The award is presented annually to a local health care professional who strives to provide local patients with quality care and goes above and beyond to make their communities healthier.
“Being a part of our growing program meant challenging herself to learn the incredibly complex sub-specialties of vascular neurology and endovascular neurosurgery, all while being asked to do more work than anticipated daily, and still helping to recruit and teach providers joining our team,” said Dr. Cynthia Kenmuir, director of the stroke and neurointerventional programs at UPMC Altoona, who nominated Lazor for the award. “Despite all of that, Sandra puts on a smile and embraces each new day. Sandra is one of the most compassionate people that I have had the privilege to work with. I routinely receive praise from our patients and their families about how she treated their loved one as well as she would her own.”
The Healthy Lifestyle Change Award was presented to Nicole Estep of Duncansville. The award is presented to a local woman who has incorporated the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” into her everyday life and, by doing so, has dramatically changed her health for the better.
Nicole’s health journey started 10 years ago when she was going through a stressful time, working full time, raising four daughters and was 70 pounds overweight. She started taking small steps to eat healthier and be more physically active by joining a local gym. A year later, she became a fitness instructor and later purchased the gym.
“This was not a fast process, but I was committed to the journey and wanted to set a good example for my girls,” said Estep. “Small changes started to happen. I changed the way I was eating, adding real food and ditching things that were processed in a can, bag or box. I started walking, turned it into running, and then turned that into lifting weights.”
In 2016, she went back to college to earn a degree in Natural Medicine so she could help other people advocate for their health. In 2019, Nicole was struck by a vehicle while riding her bike and suffered a traumatic brain injury and badly fractured arm. She sold the gym, but now spends her time volunteering and consulting with other women to help them improve their health.
“Nicole exemplifies someone who continually gets back up after falling down,” said Sue Greip, who nominated Estep for the award. “I believe she will encourage other women as we all work to ‘Reclaim Our Rhythm’ this year.”
The highlight of the evening was a fashion show featuring local health care workers and heart disease and stroke survivors as models, as well as Miss Pennsylvania International pageant winners. Each model walked the runway in fashions provided by Macy’s and Celestial Brides as Christy Shields and WPSU’s Carolyn Donaldson shared their personal story and connection to the Go Red for Women mission.
Since 2004, Go Red for Women has had a profound impact on women’s health. As the trusted, passionate, and relevant force to eradicate heart disease and stroke, through the Go Red for Women movement, the American Heart Association remains steadfast and committed to meeting the comprehensive health needs of women — at every life stage.
The dollars raised by the Blair Go Red for Women event fund the mission of the American Heart Association to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives, as well as generate funds for lifesaving cardiovascular research for women.
The Blair Go Red for Women campaign is sponsored nationally by CVS Health and locally by Conemaugh Health System, UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, Nason Foundation, First Energy Foundation, McQuaide Blasko Attorneys at Law, Stuckey Automotive and other local companies.
For more information about supporting the 2023 Blair Go Red for Women campaign, chaired by Tiffany Tomlinson, unit director of the cardiac cath and electrophysiology labs and chest pain coordinator at UPMC Altoona, contact Brooke Greybush at [email protected] or 717-730-1713.