I am the product of my village. When I received the AHA Survivor Advocate of the Year award in DC years ago, I knew it was really not about me.
That award is a culmination of those who invested in me and what I’ve learned up to this point. For more than 19 years now I have raised money for heart walks, volunteered for American Heart Association (AHA) in booths at various events, and been a guest speaker to parents, survivors and even AHA staff. I have helped train other advocates, spoken to countless legislators, and been featured in Public Service Announcements, but these things didn’t start with me.
Most recently, I recorded a video for the AHA’s 40th Year Celebration. Not only have I been an advocate with the AHA for nearly two decades – but I have come to see the immense ways that the American Heart Association is transforming communities for the better across the country… and I’ve been able to be a part of that change for a long time.
My advocacy story started with my mother who encouraged all four of her children to not let adversity stop their dreams and to help others along the way. I learned the power of resolve in the face of limitations from my brother Darrell; of working smarter (not harder) from my brother Rodney; and to stay focused on family from both my younger brother Willie and Cousin Charles. My daughter, Ilana, has taught me the benefits of (sometimes) being silly and enjoying the moment.
These lessons have been honed and sharpened by AHA/YTC staff and volunteers through training and practice sessions. How could I begin to thank Sloan Garner, Betsy Vetter, Kacie Kennedy and all the other AHA/YTC folks who have put time, trust, and support in my success as an advocate and as a person. Every survivor, caretaker, and medical provider I meet leaves their mark and positive influence on my resolve to continue volunteering. I can’t run cross country, but I can effect change that reaches beyond my community one volunteer effort at a time.
To all those named and unnamed members of my "village," I say thank you and I will continue to honor you by using my abilities to help others.
You’re the Cure Survivor, Volunteer, Advocate