The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, welcomed 125 supporters back to the Capital Region Go Red for Women event on Thursday, May 12 at the West Shore Country Club in Camp Hill. It was the first time the event was held in-person since May 2019. The campaign, led by co-chairs Wendy Oliver, regional vice president of operations at Weis Markets, and Rick Seipp, vice president of pharmacy at Weis Markets, raised $150,000 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.
“Women have especially been affected by the pandemic taking on additional roles with their personal and professional lives,” said Oliver. “During this time, heart health has been more important than ever. The reality is heart disease and stroke claim the lives of 1 in 3 women each year and the Go Red for Women has been working for the past 18 years to make more women aware of that fact and help them take charge of their health.”
In addition to a silent auction, guests supported the cause through the Open Your Heart appeal featuring the stories of two local heart disease survivors – Sophia Morales and Ceirra Zeager.
Sophia Morales, a 7-year-old from Red Lion, York County, was born with the congenital heart defect transposition of the great arteries and required open-heart surgery three days after birth to correct the defect. Today, Sophia is a healthy and active second grader who enjoys playing softball and cheerleading. She was unable to attend the event in person because she was at her very first cheerleading performance. Sophia’s oldest brother, 18-year-old Isaiah Morales, shared her story and the impact it’s had on their family.
“Sophia’s story and her early-life experiences have inspired my family and me to continue the mission and vision of the American Heart Association,” said Morales. “Every year, you can find Sophia, me, and our family at the annual Heart Walk, supporting Sophia’s heart and anyone subject to heart disease and stroke. Sophia loves art, she wants to ride her bike everywhere, and she is a social butterfly who loves to play outside with her friends. As I see Sophia thriving and living her life, I understand the importance of her health and the overall heart health in the community.”
At age 14, Ceirra Zeager of Reading, Berks County spent a full day feeling short of breath before she was diagnosed with a heart attack after a blood clot became lodged in her coronary artery due to a previously undiagnosed hole in her heart called a patent foramen ovale. Despite having surgery to fix the hole and continuing cardiac care, several years later, in the summer of 2020, she was again feeling that something was wrong. Ceirra advocated for herself until doctors ordered an emergency echocardiogram, which showed she had severe mitral valve regurgitation. Just weeks before her wedding, she learned that she would need open heart surgery.
“Although this was a truly heartbreaking diagnosis, I did not let it slow me down, I finished that fall school semester and got on the dean’s list, and was still able to get married,” said Zeager. “Today, I am applying to physician assistant schools to give back to the amazing medical field and medical professionals that have saved my life. Always remember, that your condition does not define you. Find the light in the darkness.”
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 Capital Region 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 Capital Region Go Red for Women campaign is sponsored nationally by CVS Health and locally by Weis Markets, Capital Blue Cross, The Giant Company, Highmark, Penn State Health, UPMC and UPMC Health Plan.
Photos and event highlights can be found on our Facebook page @AHAPennsylvania and more information is available at harrisburggored.heart.org.
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Communications Director for the American Heart Association in Central Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, State College, Altoona and Johnstown.