Giving and Leading: 2015 Heart Ball

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It’s called the premier annual social fundraising event of the Phoenix area, and this year’s Heart Ball will focus on Childhood Obesity Prevention. Kimberly Afkhami, chair of the 56th Heart Ball, will tell us more.

In northwest Arizona, just off state route 95 stands a peculiar monument to the town of Oatman. Oddly the marker is 15 miles from the town it honors. West into the black mountains, the mining town of Oatman was established at the turn of the century. By the 1930s, nearly 2 million ounces of goal had been extracted from the surrounding mines. The price of gold and World War II forced the closure of the mines in the '40s. The town was delivered another blow when in 1952, a stretch of interstate 40 opened, siphoning off the life-blood, route 66 traffic. It quickly became a ghost town. Route 66 is again its life-blood. Nostalgia for the mother road and the old west brought tourists from all over the world. They walked the boardwalks, hanged with the local gun fighters and are followed around by the most famous residents, the burros. Being closer to Nevada, the misplaced monument is long forgotten, but the town is remembered daily. ¶¶ ¶¶

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona Giving and Leading looks at the 2015 Heart Ball, a major fundraiser for the American Heart Association and one of the premier social fundraising events in the valley. Kimberly Afkhami is the chair of this year's event. And she joins us now. Good to have you here.

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: Thank you so much for having me.

TED SIMONS: Let's define terms here. What is the Phoenix Heart Ball?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: The Phoenix Heart Ball raises funds for the American Heart Association every year. It began in 1959 with Mrs. Barry Goldwater. It's been in the valley. We're ambassadors for the heart association and what we do is let everybody know in the valley and the community about heart disease and stroke and how to take better care of themselves.

TED SIMONS: I want to get to more of that in a second. Simply raising awareness of heart disease, how do you do that?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: By going out and talking to everybody that you can. This year, my platform, we have the holly heart children's museum. That is another way we let people know about heart disease.

TED SIMONS: And the funds are also used for prevention as well and education and research and these sorts of things?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: Yes, it is. The moneys go back to research advocacy here in the state, we do things with the NFL, the play 60, it's a physical activity to get the kids on the move. So there's a variety of ways that these moneys go back into research and trying to help prevent heart disease and stroke.

TED SIMONS: Is it working? Are these programs, are these efforts, are people getting the message?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: I think people are getting the message. You're seeing people eating healthier, trying to stay away from the sugars. Physical activity, being aware. And I think being able to know about heart disease, they can go to their doctors and physicians and make sure they're being checked, especially if it runs in the family, heart disease and stroke runs in the family.

TED SIMONS: Indeed. As far as the Heart Ball itself, who attends the Heart Ball?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: Oh, my gosh, many people from all through the valley are donors, philanthropists, people who believe in the cause, people who have had heart disease and stroke really in their personal lives and they believe in it and they come and support, and it's just a thank-you to those who do every year.

TED SIMONS: And once they're there, what happens at the Heart Ball? We've seen these old movies, what happens at the Heart Ball?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: That's exactly what we do. It is a thank-you to all our donors, to the committee who work year in and year out to raise awareness and funds for the American Heart Association, so we do get dressed up, we celebrate, we have wonderful food. There's dancing. It's just a celebration.

TED SIMONS: And there are honorees, correct?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: Yes, there are and this year my honorees are Billy Jo and Chad Herberger, they are just an incredible part of our community as you well know, they've been associated with the American Heart Association and Heart Ball for many, many years and they truly believe in the cause.

TED SIMONS: And again, your emphasis this year is on childhood obesity.


TED SIMONS: How is the American Heart Association taking that on? That can be kind of touchy, kids aren't the weight they should be, you've got to, you know,

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: Well, that is very true but it is a national health crisis. It truly is, for the American youth anymore. Because we have children who are overweight or obese from two years of age and up, literally children age 3 show indicators for heart disease that will show up later in life. So there has -- we have to do something better for our valley as well as the country and one of those things as I mentioned before is the holly heart children's museum. It is the only one of its kind in the country, it's in our own backyard in Tempe, and it's a hands-on learning environment. Children come in, they have these fabulous exhibits where the children literally hands-on learn how to take care of themselves physically, no smoking, how to eat properly, they have a cafe, a kitchen there where they can actually learn to cook. There's a little marketplace where they can learn how to shop. What they're buying while they're in the grocery store to keep it heart healthy and the family and I find every time I walk in there, you learn something new. It's not only important for the children but for the parents, the caretakers who take them there. It's wonderful.

TED SIMONS: If the parents and the caretakers are still feeding them sugar, they'll be overweight. People are starting to get the message about heart disease and taking care of themselves. Childhood obesity, is it leveling off a little bit? Or is it still -- not really?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: Not really. I think being able to get there and discuss it and really bring it to the forefront, it will be. And I think having that platform this year and taking it to people who don't really know about it and letting them know about the museum that we have in our own backyard, it will defiantly help solve the problem.

TED SIMONS: It seems like sugar is public enemy number one these days. So many problems.

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: It is. And again, and I keep coming back to the holly heart museum but in their marketplace or in their cafe, they have a board that literally shows you in bags how much sugar intake you're having in these sports drinks, coffee, Coca-Colas. It's there. And the only thing really truly -- that doesn't is water, it's staggering and we have to find a way to stop it.

TED SIMONS: When and where is the 2015 Heart Ball?

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: The Heart Ball is November 21st and it will be at the Arizona Biltmore this year.
TED SIMONS: Alright, very good, it's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us, it's good to have you here.

KIMBERLY AFKHAMI: Thank you so much, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Kimberly Afkhami : Chair of the 56th Heart Ball

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