Let's Turn Chattanooga Red

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

February is National Heart Month. Fact. Friday, Feb. 1, is National Wear Red Day. Fact. Heart Disease is the number one killer of our mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, aunts, nieces in America. Fact.

I volunteer much of my time to the American Heart Association mainly with Go Red for Women but additionally with the Chattanooga Heart Ball. I watch many volunteers throughout the year give more than just a little of their time to an organization working hard to end heart disease not only in adults but in children. So when I took on chair the planning committee for the Chattanooga Go Red for Women Luncheon again this year I would make it my mission to turn Chattanooga Red.  

What do I mean by this? You know in October when it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month how a few of our largest Chattanooga based companies turned their campus’ pink with illuminated lights, displays all in pink, or discounts for wearing pink? Now, don’t get me wrong I support Susan G. Komen in many ways, walking in Race for the Cure, for one, with my best friend who is a breast cancer survivor – so please do not think I’m only on the AHA bandwagon. I’m not.  I’ve partnered with many non-profits in their different functions to help raise their specific awareness…but let’s remember this is not about me.  It's about the mother who suffers a heart attack while shuffling her kids to practice, or the little girl born with a heart defect, or the woman who wants so badly to be a mother but is told she would never have this opportunity because her heart is just not strong enough.

Our committees have reached out to many large Chattanooga companies only to be told “we donated to your cause but this just can’t be done.” While the monetary donation is incredible and greatly appreciated we are trying to spread awareness. In some ways it feels like writing a check is their way to make those any nonprofit happy, get them off our backs, etc. Our goals are fundraising but more importantly spreading awareness that heart disease kills more women in our country than breast cancer; that one in three women will die from heart disease, that many women have the signs of heart attacks but push them to the side because they are making breakfast and getting their children to school.  

What better way to spread awareness and get our community asking “Why is the city red?” What a better conversation starter right? So why is this so difficult? Is it because it would take a few extra dollars to flip a switch or interchange a few light bulbs. Is it because someone would have to actually do a little more work to order red gel and a heat shield for lights outside their buildings?

Please understand I do not work for the AHA, I am merely a volunteer. I take this personal though because without this organization a cousin would have never received her defibrillator and watch her son grown into the man he has become. Without this organization my two daughters would never know their Papaw who had a massive heart attack, quadruple bypass, a defibrillator that can print out the rhythms of his heart pinpointing the exact time to the minute when his defibrillator actually had to do its work. Without this organization I, or you, could be that one in three women.

So I ask, will Chattanooga show it does have a heart for a stronger, better and healthier community?

Andrea Lewis

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