Hospital CEOs and donors attend AHA Heart Walk VIP reception


Andrew Tantillo – Special to the Southern News

Draped in cocktail dresses and upscale suits, hospital CEO’s, SCSU administrators and charitable donors mingled in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom Thursday night for a cocktail party, complete with gourmet hors d’oeuvres, live jazz music and a red carpet photo backdrop.

However, American Heart Association Heart Walk Developmental Director, Angelina Stackpole, said guests at the 2014 AHA Heart Walk VIP Reception were there for more than just a photo-op and a glass of wine.

“We’re here to raise awareness and funds to support research, education and advocacy for cardiovascular disease and stroke,” said Stackpole. “Of course, like so many other people here, I have a personal connection to the cause, having had members of my family suffer from heart disease.”

Stackpole’s emphatic “of course” does not go unfounded. According to the AHA, cardiovascular disease and stroke ranked as the first and fourth, respectively, leading causes of death in American men and women in 2013.

Dee Klingaman, a Heart Walk team captain and heart attack survivor, said cognizance of her family’s medical history and statistics like these are part of what saved her life.

“I was waterskiing with my husband on a Saturday afternoon 10 years ago, and I began experiencing chest pains,” Klingaman said. “Knowing how deadly and how prevalent of a killer heart disease is, and the fact that my mother died of a stroke and two of my brothers died of heart attacks in their 40s, we went to the emergency room and, sure enough, I was having a heart attack.”

Klingaman said she avoided bypass surgery by having two stents, small mesh tubes used to widen weak or narrow arteries, implanted in two of her heart passages, both of which had 100-percent blockage at the time. She also said her second chance at life has given her an opportunity to spread attention of the disease by sharing her story with possible future victims.

“I feel really lucky, not only for my life, but also because this has allowed me to work so closely with the AHA.  I’ve been able to share my story with so many people, who will now have their own second chances,” she said.

In addition to celebrating the over 3,500 walkers and nearly $300,000 raised from 2014’s Heart Walk, Pat Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Hospital and director for the 2015 walk, said the reception also served as a kickoff to prepare for next years event.

“We’re off to very early start compared to last year,” Charmel said. “The goal I’m setting for 2015’s walk is to break the $300,000 mark. I think it’s an attainable figure, but we all need to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Jessica Scibek, assistant director of the Student Center, said Southern’s involvement in the annual three-mile walk, and its cause of advancing heart health attention, extends beyond its place as one of the event’s main sponsors.

“It’s not just about raising the money through sponsorships and donations, but also about the activities and things that we can do to improve heart health,” she said. “Last year we recruited eight teams of walkers that consisted of Southern students and faculty. We do an heart health fair every year where we team up with the wellness center and other organizations on campus to promote awareness.”

Scibek said Southern currently has multiple events to boost cardiovascular health consciousness on campus in the works.

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