November 2008

2009 Heart Ball: “In the Heart of the Low Country” An evening of serious fun for a very important cause

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

On Saturday, February 7, 2009, from 6:30 p.m. until midnight, Lowcountry residents will don their finest attire and come together at the Crowne Plaza Resort to dine, dance and vie for luxurious auction items. While the focus of the elegant black-tie event is to mix, mingle and have a good time, the real objective is to show support for the American Heart Association and its efforts to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The theme for this year’s gala is “In the Heart of the Low Country.” According to Rose Newton, who is chairing the event along with her husband, Weston, “It will be an elegant affair but with a very personal feel.”

Among the evening’s activities will be a seated dinner, live music and live and silent auctions. Items up for bid will include fabulous vacations, fine jewelry, original art, golf packages, spa services, items for the home, sports memorabilia and much more. (If you would like to donate an item or service for auction, please contact the American Heart Association at 681-2355.)

In addition, there will be a display of Lowcountry artwork, contributed by area artists who submitted their works in a contest to illustrate the theme. All of the original art will be up for auction, including the winning painting, by Richard Coyne—a fabulous sunset marsh scene, entitled “Here Comes the Sun,” and the bid paddle art, a folksy piece by Rosemary Hurkamp, entitled “The Low Country Children’s Choir.”

The Heart and Stroke Ball is one of the American Heart Association’s annual signature events and is hosted in hundreds of cities across the county. According to Judy Caramello, director of corporate relations, the goal for the local event is to raise $150,000-plus to go toward research and local advocacy programs.

“The reason this event is so important to attend is that all the money we raise is earmarked for this community. It goes to colleges, to medical school programs, to doctors’ research, to funding for grants and to programs that affect how we teach our children,” said Mary Frances Lowrey, who is co-chairing the event with her husband, Lawson and cardiologist, Dr. Cal Sharp and his wife, Anna.

When heart issues hit home
While some people will attend just for the fun of it, most feel a personal connection to the cause. Consider the facts: An average of 1.2 million Americans suffer from a heart attack annually and 40 percent of these people die. Every 26 seconds someone in the US has a cardiac event. And once every minute someone dies. Could that someone be you or someone you love?

According to the American Heart Association, last year, more people died from heart disease and stroke than from cancer, diabetes, accidents and AIDS combined. In 2004, 12,597 South Carolinians died from some form of cardiovascular disease. This equates to almost 62 deaths per day.

“I don’t know any person who doesn’t know someone who has had a stroke or a heart attack or someone who has some sort of heart issue, whether it’s a grandparent or a child,” said Lowrey.

“We have heart disease on both sides of our family,” said Newton. “Since it has affected us personally, we are passionate about raising awareness and supporting a good cause. Our goal is to bring heart disease to the forefront and put a face on it,” she added, explaining that heart issues may not be as outwardly apparent as some other diseases such as cancer. “Part of our PowerPoint presentation will be pictures of people in the Lowcountry—people you may recognize—who have been directly or indirectly affected by cardiovascular disease,” she said. There will also be testimonials from area residents who, thanks to modern research and medical advancements, have overcome heart issues and are living full, productive lives. You’ll meet five-year-old Josie Schmitt, born with a congenital heart defect, whose mom, Jane, will share her child’s amazing story and Wes and Margaret Jones, who are celebrating the 13th anniversary of their 34-year-old daughter, Mary Margaret Trosdal’s successful heart surgery and recent participation in a triathlon. According to Margaret, her daughter, now a mother of two, would not have been able to have children and most likely would not have lived beyond her mid-forties without the surgery to repair a hole in her heart.

A special appeal for children
According to the American Heart Association, each year, approximately 36,000 babies are born with a heart defect. In fact, each year, nearly four times as many children die from congenital cardiovascular defects as from all forms of childhood cancers combined.

Each day, about 3,900 children ages 12-17 try their first cigarette and more than 9 million children and teens, ages 6-19 are overweight. Both these issues lead to higher risks of developing cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

“We have to start teaching our kids how to eat properly and how to take care of their bodies and exercise,” said Lowrey. “This [the Heart Ball] puts money into education for our children. It also raises money for how we feed them in the cafeteria. All of this will affect my kids.”

“There’s so much that the Heart Association is doing right here in this community,” said Newton, citing the women’s programs as an example. “They’ve educated 1,200 women in the last two years about heart health issues, including childhood obesity. They have advocated new healthy eating habits and physical education programs that are coming through the state legislature to the school systems throughout South Carolina. That is really big. It’s events such as the Heart Ball that enable us to do those things.”

How you can help
Mark your calendar and make your reservation. Tickets to the Heart Ball gala are $150 each. Purchase them individually or reserve a table for your business or a group of friends. Don’t miss this opportunity to have a fabulous evening out while making a positive contribution to a worthy cause. You can make a difference.

To purchase tickets, inquire about sponsorship or to donate auction items, call Judy Caramello at (843) 681-2355 or e-mail Find out more about the American Heart Association at

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