THE HEART SPARK: Advocacy Empowerment Series 

2022 Event Speakers

Catherine Nicholson

Catherine Nicholson is the Regional Director for the North Texas region of the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. Catherine works collaboratively to convene stakeholders within many sectors to expand access to nutrition programs and increase food security. She received her B.S. in Nutrition Science from Abilene Christian University, with a Didactic Program in Dietetics focus. Prior to working at BCHP, Catherine worked in school nutrition services, and gained familiarity with several nutrition programs.

Jaelene Luper 

AHA advocate Jaelene Luper is an Instructor for the National Cheerleaders Association and a face you may have seen on the Netflix docuseries, "Cheer." Having dealt with food insecurity briefly as a child, she has made it her personal mission to combat the hunger crisis in her community. After receiving the Lyrical Activist Award from the North Texas Food Bank in 2016, interning at the Hays County Food Bank in 2017 and becoming a certified SNAP sign-up aid in 2018, Jaelene is currently partnering with the North Texas Food Bank and Feeding Texas, and has personally raised over 125,000 meals throughout her years of volunteering. As if she wasn’t amazing enough, she is also your Miss Dallas and will be competing at the Miss Texas scholarship competition in June. 

Jenny Eyer

Jenny Eyer graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from Abilene Christian University and earned her MPH with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health from the University of Texas School of Public Health. A native Texan, Jenny has spent her entire career focused on improving the lives of children and their families across the state, working to make Texas a great place to live, work, pray, and play.   

Her work has included passing legislation at the state level that has increased food access for students across the state, partnering with school districts to expand meal programs before and after the school day, and conducting research around physical activity in schools to inform state and local legislation.   

As the Vice President of Health Strategies, for AHA’s North Texas area, she focuses her time on implementing community-facing programs, advocating for sustainable policy solutions, and ensuring all North Texans have the ability to live longer, healthier lives. She is a member of the LiiNK Advisory Board and a Fellow of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Child Health Leadership Network. Her favorite job, though, is raising her three children with her husband, Jesse, and drinking lots of coffee. 

State Representative Nicole Collier 

State Representative Nicole Collier is a leader on public health in Texas.  Rep. Collier is a respected attorney, small business owner, grandmother and mother of three. She graduated from the University of Houston and married Gary Collier, shortly thereafter. Gary and Nicole established their home in Fort Worth, Texas, and for the last 18 years, Nicole has been a strong advocate for individuals and families and has now taken her skills to the state Capitol. Nicole is the first woman to represent House District 95, in Tarrant County, and in November 2020, she was re-elected to her fifth term in office. Nicole's outstanding legislative achievements and contributions earned her the Regional Legislator of the year award by The National Black Caucus of State Legislators in 2022. Active in her community, Nicole serves on boards of Medical City of Fort Worth and the Texas Indigent Defense Commission. 


Abigail Davis

Abigail Davis is a junior at the University of Arkansas pursuing a major in Marketing and a minor in Biology and Journalism. She is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority where she serves as Vice-President. 

She began volunteering early in life in her church, school, and community, and Abigail quickly fell in love with the opportunity of making a difference in the lives of others. Seeing first-hand the effects of heart disease through her grandfather’s personal struggles, she began to concentrate much of her volunteer efforts in high school toward educating others about heart health, which led to her becoming an advocate for the American Heart Association. They quickly put her communication skills to good use through speaking at various events and writing a monthly blog for You’re The Cure. Abigail testified to the Arkansas Legislature in support of Tobacco 21 legislation which became law in September and was awarded the 2019 American Heart Association Youth Advocate of the Year in October. She currently has a monthly vlog for the AHA called “The Lub Dub” vlog.  

Alec Puente

Alec Puente is the Texas Government Relations Director at the American Heart Association, working at the state and local levels to help improve the health of Texans through policy change targeting issues heart disease, health equity, and nutrition security . Prior to joining the AHA, Alec worked as the director of policy and legal counsel at an Austin legislative lobbying firm and as a policy analyst for former State Senator Rodney Ellis. Alec earned his J.D. at the University of Texas School of Law and a master’s degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and lives in Austin, TX.

Allison Hogue

Allison serves the Southwest Region of the American Heart Association as Grassroots Manager, Team Lead and has been with the AHA for almost eight years. In her role at the AHA she cultivates advocates, build relationships, and convinces lawmakers to do the heart-right thing when it comes to public policy. 

She is a graduate of Hendrix College where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Politics. She is involved with the Miss Arkansas Scholarship organizations as a volunteer director and serves on the board of Team Mercy in Texas.  

She’s the proud mom of Dalton and Garrett as well as three feline furballs - Trixie, Shortie and Minnie. Her partner in the chaos of life, Mike is a political reporter for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and they live in Benton, Arkansas. 


Andre Scott

Andre Scott is a sophomore at Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas. He writes a monthly blog for our You’re the Cure website and is a member of the AHA Tobacco Endgame Youth Advisory Group. He was recently selected as a member of the 2022 Disney Dreamers Academy.  

Connie Kerr

Connie Kerr

Connie’s strong family history of heart disease and stroke fuel her passion for the American Heart Association’s mission and goals. She has been a volunteer with the AHA since the early 1980s, when she first “walked her block” in Arlington, TX, to distribute educational materials and collect donations.

Connie’s experience as a volunteer led to her employment as Communications and Advocacy Director for the Orange County Chapter of the AHA in Irvine, CA. That experience solidified her personal commitment to the AHA and has given her a unique perspective as a volunteer.

Since returning to Arlington, TX in 1993, Connie has served in numerous volunteer positions at the state and local level and continues to serve on the Texas State Advocacy Committee. As an advocacy volunteer, Connie has worked on a variety of local campaigns in Arlington, Ft. Worth and Dallas, and has lobbied at the Texas Capitol in Austin and in Washington, DC.

Over the years, Connie’s parents and husband have experienced serious cardiovascular conditions and have all been recipients of AHA-supported advancements in science and technology. Her family is convinced that Connie’s AHA experience led to them receiving timely treatment. Seeing them recovered has further inspired Connie to continue to support the AHA.

Connie enjoys gardening, yoga and walking. She and husband Steve enjoy traveling, Razorback sports, Rangers baseball, church activities, concerts and movies. Their daughter, Laura, and her husband, Tim Bateman, and three “perfect” children (Leah, Hannah and Noah) live in the Dallas area.

Douglas Dunsavage

Douglas Dunsavage has worked in the field of politics and public policy for the last 20 years.  His professional experience includes working as a Legislative Aide, Director and Chief of Staff for numerous legislators in the Texas House of Representatives including Patricia Gray, former Chair of Public Health, and Yvonne Davis, who is currently one of the longest serving House members in Texas.  

Since returning to Dallas in 2004, Douglas has worked for the American Heart Association in many capacities including roles as a Government Relations Director, Director of Policy Campaigns in the SouthWest Affiliate, National State Advocacy Consultant. In his current role as North Texas Community Advocacy Director, he works on furthering AHA public policy in the North Texas Region.  

Douglas is a keen angler, golfer and sports fan.  He lives in East Dallas with his wife, Laura, and two children, Kemp and Hillam. 


Elizabeth Williams

Elizabeth just celebrated her 10-year work anniversary with the American Heart Association. She serves and supports grassroots team members located all over the country. She loves her job because she’s able to work from home and still be the wife and Mom she desires to be for her family. Elizabeth has many ‘whys’ that keep her motivated in her career. She has had grandmothers pass away from stroke, friends’ babies born with congenital heart defects, and has a deep desire to educate those around her on the important work of the AHA. She’s most passionate about Hands-Only CPR and the Tobacco Endgame. Elizabeth is married to a high school teacher and football coach, has two sons, and lives in Sachse, Texas. She is an alumni of Mississippi State University (Hail State) and an ‘Alumni by Choice of Baylor University (Sic Em Bears). 

Rep. Tony Tinderholt

Tony Tinderholt is a father, retired combat veteran, and state representative from House District 94. He is serving his fourth term in the Texas Legislature, representing the people of Arlington, Dalworthington Gardens, and Pantego in Tarrant County. Tinderholt serves on the Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety as well as the Committee on Defense & Veterans' Affairs. He is the Chairman of the House Veterans Caucus and serves as a Floor Leader for the House Republican Caucus. 

Before his state service, Tinderholt had a decorated military career. In his 21 years in the armed forces, Major (Ret.) Tinderholt served tours across several continents. Among other accolades, he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Combat Action Badge. 

He is the proud father of his four children and two grandchildren and is happily married to Bethany, a loving mother, Executive Director of the Arlington Police Foundation, and former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. 

Rep. Yvonne Davis

Yvonne Davis was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives from District 111 in 1992.

She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence. Representative Davis is also a senior member of the House Transportation Committee. She is the former Chair of the Texas House of Representatives Democratic Caucus and is past Chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.