American Heart Association Celebrates NWA’s Largest Class of Sweethearts
Text provided by American Heart Association
Photos by Elizabeth Ledbetter, Javé Photography
Becoming an American Heart Association Sweetheart is more than a photo opportunity. Some would say it’s a calling.
More than four dozen sophomore-age girls from across the region stepped up this year to help at the association’s events, help carry out health campaigns and raise funds and awareness for the organization’s education and research initiatives.
Kaley Baxendale, corporate market director for the Northwest Arkansas Sweethearts, helps to guide this growing group into the next generation of health advocates. They’re trained to educate others on matters of general health and, specifically, heart health.
“We have 45 of the brightest young women who have servant hearts and exemplify leadership in our community,” Baxendale says. “Their volunteer work and fundraising efforts for the American Heart Association are instrumental in the work we are doing as an organization, and I am proud to be the director of this elite program.”
The Sweethearts will be introduced at the NWA Heart Ball, set for Feb. 21 at John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers. The ball’s new theme, The Gift of Time, is a reminder of the life-changing effects of heart disease and stroke, as well as ways to prevent these health threats, thus adding more time to enjoy life.
For each AHA Sweetheart, the program comes with a commitment to raise $1,000 over the course of the year and fulfill 40 hours of community service. The program runs from August to June each year, and the girls participate in a fundraising telethon, tour a heart catheterization lab at a local hospital, attend a leadership retreat, engage in a service project and a group fitness class. In addition, they help bring awareness to National Eat Smart Day, National Wear Red Day, National Walking Day and American Heart Month.
In just three months’ time, the young women have already collectively raised more than $30,000, says Baxendale.
They’ve shared their experiences on social media and will close out the year with a celebration in June.
Some girls become friends when they enter the program, and the bonds created over their tenure as Sweethearts can last beyond the months they share. They often take that spirit of volunteerism and leadership through high school and beyond, becoming service-minded citizens. There are also opportunities for them to remain involved with future Sweethearts through a mentoring program.
Girls interested in becoming a Sweetheart should contact Kaley Baxendale at (479) 439-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are accepted through June for the 2021 Sweetheart class. More information about the program and tickets to this year’s ball can be found at NWAHeartBall.heart.org.
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