Last Saturday night, Feb. 25, the Maryland chapter of the American Heart Association literally rolled out the red carpet and offered some of the “glitz and glamour” of old Hollywood to celebrate its annual Baltimore Heart Ball.
More than 400 people — including many from the medical, corporate, community organizational and health care fields — were in attendance at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront for an elegant evening of dinner, dancing, entertainment, and live and silent auctions.
Now in its 32nd year and emceed by WBAL-TV reporter Vanessa Herring, the $500-per-seat black-tie gala raises much-needed money to help fund medical research, educational efforts and community outreach in Maryland and around the country. The event raised more than $460,000.
By 2020, the AHA hopes to increase cardiovascular health by 20 percent while decreasing cardiovascular deaths by 20 percent.
“We’re here to celebrate everything the American Heart Association has achieved and everything we will achieve,” said Dr. Stephen N. Davis, chair of this year’s Heart Ball and chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“In the last couple of years, the AHA has helped pass Breanna’s Law, we’ve put defibrillators in [at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport], we have health kitchens across Baltimore, and we’re also forging alliances to try and reduce atherosclerotic heart disease in Maryland and the great city of Baltimore.”
Enacted in 2014, Breanna’s Law requires that all Maryland high school students learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation in order to graduate. The law is named after Breanna Sudano, who as a freshman field hockey player at Perry Hall High School was saved by CPR after she collapsed during a game.
A speaker at this year’s Heart Ball, Sudano, who has had a heart condition for several years, said she did not realize the impact that her health scare would have on others in the state.
“At the time the law was being put into place, I was actually only 14 years old, so I was fairly young. [I was] just kind of getting used to having a heart condition. It took about a year-and-a half to get it passed, but I’m glad it did,” said Sudano, now a college sophomore.
The AHA’s live auction included the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles game, tickets to the television show “The Daily Show,” as well as various luxury items. The silent auction included private tours of the Walter Arts Museum, consumer electronics, and tickets to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Although the mood of the evening was festive, Davis noted that there is still a long road ahead in the fight against cardiac disease.
“I think everyone here knows that heart disease is the number-one cause of death in Baltimore, stroke is number three, and [emergency department] visits for diabetes and hypertension are three-to-four times higher in Baltimore than anywhere else,” he said.
During the program, heartfelt tributes were offered to the late Dr. Elijah Saunders, a University of Maryland cardiologist, and Dr. Levi Watkins, a Johns Hopkins Hospital cardiac surgeon. Both Watkins and Saunders died in 2015 after spending their respective careers championing the fight against cardiac health disparities among minorities and economic classes.
In addition, an emotional tribute was made to Keymar Green, who put Breanna’s Law to good use a year ago. A junior at Thomas Stone High School in Charles County, Keymar used the CPR techniques he learned in class to save the life of his younger brother, Joshua-Jaydin, when he stopped breathing due to an asthma attack.
“It might seem like something you just do in class when you’re goofing off with the practice dummies,” Keymar said about the training, “but you’ve got to just remember that this could save someone’s life.”
The Green brothers took the stage, introducing the “Open Your Heart” segment during which guests could give donations in honor of those close to them. Donations ranged from $100 to $10,000.
The night came to a close with the slow-jam jazz sounds of the aptly-named band Doctor’s Orders.
For information about the Maryland chapter of the American Heart Association, visit heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/Baltimore-Home-Page_UCM_MAA002_AffiliatePage.jsp
William Linker is a Jmore editorial intern.
Photo by Jackson Photography
Top Photo: Breanna Sudano (left) thank the Baltimore Heart Ball audience with brothers Keymar (middle) and Joshua-Jayden Green.
Middle Photo: Jmore Publisher Dr. Scott Rifkin (right) chats with a fellow Baltimore Heart Ball attendee.
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