ORONO — The American Heart Association’s 12th annual Heart Ball raised some $100,000 on April 9 at the University of Maine. Some 300 people filled the Wells Conference Center for an evening of dinner, dancing and games with a theme of “Don’t Gamble with Your Heart.”
Wilma “Willie” Bradford of Bangor was honored with the 2011 Gold Heart award for her contributions to Greater Bangor. It also was her birthday, and the AHA staff sang to her.
The Rev. Bob Carlson, president of Penobscot Community Health Care and master of ceremonies, presented the award saying, “Willie Bradford is a woman of firsts. She was the first woman trustee at Eastern Maine Medical Center, the first female chairperson of United Way, and the first woman to receive the Norby Dowd award from the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce. Willie also received the first Wilma Award from the Collins Center at University of Maine — an award which is named for her. She is also a past recipient of the Black Bear Award from the University of Maine.”
Guest speakers included former Gov. John Baldacci and his niece, Elise Baldacci, who talked about tragic losses in their family related to heart ailment.
“Like me, many of you have probably lost someone you love to heart disease,” the former governor said. “Even with all the new technology and advances that have been made, people like my mother and brother still lose the fight and never get the chance to be saved by research findings because some research grants tragically go unfunded.”
Dr. Alan Jansujwicz, cardiologist with Northeast Cardiology Associates, was the 2011 Heart Ball chairman.
“Many individuals in Maine have been touched, in some way, by heart disease,” he said. “The fact you’re here shows your understanding of the pervasive nature of cardiovascular disease.” He acknowledged the Heart Ball committee members: Deborah Richards, Eastern Maine Medical Center; Jason Pelletier, Sanofi-Aventis; Bill Lucy, People’s United Bank; Herb Sargent, Sargent Corp.; Mike Shea, Webber Energy; Ed Hennessey, Machias Savings Bank; the Rev. Bob Carlson, PCHC; Michele Collins, Hollywood Slots; Michelle Hood, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems; and Lynne Churchill, Sargent Corp.
Heart survivor Robert Gilbert shared his emotional personal story of survival after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure at age 29. He now uses a heart-lung machine as he awaits a heart transplant.
“I am still waiting for the call that they have a heart for me, but am extremely grateful for the technology that keeps me alive while I wait,” said Gilbert. “If I had one thing to say, it would be to pay attention to your body — and know the symptoms of heart disease. And please, don’t gamble with your heart, because in the end, you are gambling with your life.”
The program concluded with an announcement that the chairwoman for next year’s Heart Ball will be Michelle Hood, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.
The 2011 event raised almost $100,000 to support lifesaving research and education. However, the goal of $120,000 has not yet been reached. Those who would like to make a donation by June 30 may call the AHA’s Maine office toll-free at 800-937-0944.