Advocate Story:

Heather Amberson, Alabama

Gadsden, AL More From AL

Pictured: Heather and AHA Advocates at Alabama Lobby Day with CERPs bill sponsor (HB290), Rep. Ed Oliver

You never know how one small yes can change the trajectory of your life - just ask longtime American Heart Association volunteer, Heather Amberson.

The morning of April 6, 2024, Heather gave a soft yes to her family and friends that she would still go to the Northwest Alabama Heart Walk that day. It would be the 18th year in a row she fundraised for the Association's signature event and attended her local Heart Walk in memory of her son, John Wesley Foster, who died from cardiac arrest at age 9. A young athlete and Crimson Tide fan, John Wesley was throwing a football with his dad during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2006 when he unexpectedly collapsed. The family quickly called 911 and performed CPR, but sadly he did not survive.

At the Heart Walk, Heather ran into her friend and previous Heart Walk Director, Heidi, who invited her to the American Heart Association’s Alabama Lobby Day just four days away. Heidi thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for Heather to share John Wesley’s story, in support of a bill (House Bill 290) which would require schools to have a cardiac emergency response plan (CERP), so they are prepared to act in the event of cardiac arrest. As a nurse, Heather knows how important it is for lay people to learn CPR. She shares, “They’re usually the first responders before paramedics arrive. They’re the ones out in the community.”

On April 10, Heather arrived at Alabama Lobby Day dressed in red and fired up to share John Wesley’s story! She met with several state leaders, and testified in the House Education Committee meeting as members voted on legislation to ensure schools have cardiac emergency response plans in place. Lawmakers even renamed the bill after John Wesley!

Heather found her time at the Alabama State House to be very impactful. In fact, she returned the following week with her parents when the CERPs legislation, now known as the John Wesley Foster Act, was expected to be voted on by the House. Together with Jada Shaffer, Sr. Region Government Relations Lead, they met with numerous House members and watched the House unanimously pass CERPs legislation.

Thanks to her soft yes to attend her local Heart Walk, Heather is expanding her reach in raising awareness about cardiac arrest and saving lives by sharing John Wesley’s story. As a mom, this is one way she treasures keeping her son alive.