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Advocate Spotlight: Rae O'Neill

Meet Rae O'Neill - Illinois Advocacy Admin!

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What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

My grandfather died of a heart attack when I was five years old. Several years later my mother started working for the American Heart Association. I’ve been volunteering for American Heart Association for as long as I can remember. As a political science major, when my mother told me about the available position in advocacy I jumped at the opportunity. My boss, Mark Peysakhovich, hired me July 14th, 2014 and the rest is history! I can't imagine working anywhere else, the lifesaving work our staff and volunteers do every day is so close to my heart.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

I’m most passionate about raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 years old. This seems like a no brainer to me, because studies have shown almost 90% of smokers began smoking before the age of 19. If we want to lower the number of lifelong smokers, this is the age group we need to target. By raising the legal purchase age to 21, the Institute of Medicine predicts a 25% percent decrease in smoking prevalence by the time today’s 15-17 year-olds become adults. At this time I would like to shamelessly plug our latest Tobacco 21 action alert, if you haven't taken action on this issue yet there's still time! Please ask your state Representative to support Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois.

My friends will tell you that I’m also really passionate about lowering the consumption of sugary sweetened beverages. “Do you know how much sugar is in that drink?” is my catchphrase. Hopefully my relentless reminders will help my loved ones make healthy choices that reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

This is an easy one, my favorite advocacy experience was by far the Illinois State University Day at the Capitol. We bussed in 50 exercise science and kinesiology students, provided an advocacy training, then let them loose at the Statehouse where they told their legislators why we needed to keep the daily physical education requirement in Illinois schools. Not only did a lot of the students stay engaged as volunteers long after the event, but I think the event helped protect the P.E. requirement during a time when it was under fire.

What is your favorite way to be active?

Walking my dog

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Tomatoes

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