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Santa Barbara Heart Ball Celebrates Survivors and the Mission of American Heart Association

Emotional testimonials at the heart of 13th annual gala that raised more than $100,000 for research, treatment and education

More than 150 guests were asked to open their hearts and make a firm commitment to treatment and care for cardiovascular disease at the 13th Annual Santa Barbara Heart Ball last Friday hosted by the American Heart Association, Central Coast Division at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

This year’s theme, “A Sunset Celebration with Heart,” offered attendees a firsthand account of the profound impact that AHA research and treatment programs have provided for Santa Barbara County residents since 1924.

As guests made their way to the elegant Reagan Room, many stopped to view an assemblage of pictures and testimonials from heart and stroke survivors that lined the walkway.

By sunset, a cool summer breeze rushed over an adjacent patio to the Reagan Room, but no one seemed to mind as they mingled, sipped cocktails and surveyed an inviting array of items on display for the silent auction.

Heart-pounding treats up for bid included a Pismo Beach excursion, wine tasting at Laetitia Vineyard and a Jalama Cañon Ranch getaway.

KCOY morning anchor and Mistress of Ceremonies Sara Cole welcomed the guests. During her speech, Cole noted that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America and the No. 1 cause of deaths in Santa Barbara County.

She asked all of the heart survivors in the room to raise their hands. More than a dozen arms went up, and the room erupted in applause, whistles and cheers while Cole commended the survivors for their courage and perseverance.

AHA executive director Lisa Dosch gave a heartfelt thanks to medical staff and administrators in the audience, saying, “What a pleasure it is to be standing before such an honorable group of people this evening. All of you are the pillars upon which our community stands.”

Dosch also noted that funding AHA wellness campaigns, such as “Go Red For Women,” “CPR Anytime” and “My Heart. My Life,” are essential programs designed to educate the community and help save lives.

AHA Central Coast Division Board President Dr. Joseph Aragon outlined AHA’s goals, including that by 2020 the organization hopes to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans and reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent.

“We are not only working to save lives but to improve lives as well,” Aragon said. “We need your help to turn the ship, and with every additional dollar raised we are one step closer to saving a life.”

Janet Garufis, president and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust and 2010 Go Red for Women Luncheon chairwoman, was honored with an Appreciation Award for her support of the AHA’s efforts in cardiovascular science, education and community programs.

Talented 8-year-old Sarah Jang from Ellwood School won first prize for the 2011 Healthy Heart Drawing Contest presented by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Jang’s colorful drawing was displayed as front cover artwork on the AHA 2011 Santa Barbara Heart Ball program and depicts two smiling children eating a healthy, balanced meal.

Guest speakers included Danielle Cole, who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect when she was just 18 years old. AHA heart surgeons revealed that the hole in her heart was too large for a closure device and that open heart surgery was needed. Cole said that after surgery she was forced to accept the zipper-like scar down her chest for the rest of her life.

“My nurse said that the scar is a part of you now and you will always have a story to tell,” said Cole, who is now a critical care nurse at Cottage Hospital. “After my surgery life became brighter for me, and the scar on my chest became something that I wear with pride. It was only a few years later that I trained for the San Diego marathon, and today I continue to run, hike and live the happiest, fullest life that I possibly can.”

Brett and Rayme Elliott’s baby boy, Logan, was born with a congenital heart defect that wasn’t noticed until Logan began to turn blue sometimes.

“He had all of his fingers and all of his toes,” Brett Elliott said. “He was perfect. He was our son.”

But when Logan was 2 months old, doctors informed the Elliotts that their son was suffering from a rare condition known as Taussig-Bing syndrome.

“Logan underwent open heart surgery, and by the year of his first birthday he was beginning to walk and say ‘Mamma and Dadda,’” Elliot said as he tearfully addressed the crowd.

At 14 months old, Logan was rushed to ER with heart complications and died Oct. 14, 2009. With his wife standing beside him, Brett Elliott thanked the numerous doctors, nurses and hospital staff who cared for their son.

“The reason I stand here tonight is for you, Logan, and I hope that I have made you proud,” Elliott said. “There is a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with telling your story because it truly is yours.”

More than $100,000 raised from the 2011 SB Heart Ball will go toward AHA’s continued research, treatment and education wellness programs.

Sponsors of the AHA, Central Coast include:

» Healthy Heart Drawing Contest and Heart Health @ Home Guides sponsored by: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

» Picture and a Promise sponsored by: MarBorg Industries.

» Patron sponsors: The Medicines Company, The Wood-Claeyssens Foundation.

» Media sponsors: KCOY and The Santa Barbara Independent.

» Table sponsors: Boston Scientific, Business First Bank, Cottage Health System, Cox Communications and W.L. Gore & Assoc.

» Ticket Sponsors: Medtronics, Montecito Bank & Trust, Rabobank, Sansum Clinic, Dr. Ben Taylor, Dr. Bilal Harake, Mr. & Mrs. Ralph MacFarlane, Mr. & Mrs. Harylan Clarke.

» In-kind donors: Bridlewood Estate Winery, Chumash Casino Resort, Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard, Dr. & Mrs. Gilbert Ashor, Floral Ambiance, GolfTEC, Green Clover Creations, Halter Ranch Vineyard, Harbor View Inn, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Martin Resorts, Qupe Winery, Rory Duran, Round Hills Winery, Sandpiper Golf Club, Santa Barbara Gift Basket, Tiger Woods Foundation and Wayne & Sharol Siemens.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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