About Town

Central Arkansas Sweethearts

Story by American Heart Association | Photography by Photography by Melisa | Shot on location at the Presidential – Legacy of Life Center

Central Arkansas Sweethearts Continue A Legacy of Fundraising & Volunteerism

Potential Central Arkansas Sweethearts should contact Kathy Findley at Kathy.Findley@heart.org

  Year after year, the Central Arkansas Sweethearts build on the hard work and perseverance of their predecessors, raising much-needed funds and awareness for the American Heart Association – a global force for longer, healthier lives. The class of 2022 was no exception.

  Leading up to the Central Arkansas Heart Ball on April 2, the Sweethearts raised nearly $20,000 for education and research with a shared focus on cardiovascular health. In addition to raising funds, each Sweetheart is required to complete 20 hours of training, volunteering and advocating on behalf of the AHA.

  The Sweetheart Program was established in 1998 by Eileen and Dr. Ricardo Sotomora, a pediatric cardiologist for Baptist Health. The couple’s daughter, Charlotte “Charli” Sotomora, participated in the Sweetheart Program. 

  “I am incredibly proud of this year’s class of Sweethearts,” said Kathy Findley, senior director of development for the AHA in Central Arkansas. As the conclusion to the fundraising and awareness campaign, the Sweethearts are presented at the Heart Ball. “I am proud of their intentional efforts to be youth ambassadors for the American Heart Association and positive role models in the Central Arkansas community.”

  Sweethearts are a diverse group of sophomore-age girls from Central Arkansas schools. This year’s class of 55 girls kicked off their year of service with an August 19th welcome reception at Robinson Center and followed with a retreat at Camp Nixon on August 28th. They studied the organization’s mission and values and were trained in how to be youth ambassadors for the 98-year-old nonprofit organization. 

  In September, they gathered for a movie night and watched Something the Lord Made, a 2004 made-for-television biographical drama about the late cardiac pioneer Vivien Thomas and late surgeon Alfred Blalock, who together established modern heart surgery. Later in the month, the group took a heart-healthy walk to the Arkansas State Capitol and heard from an AHA advocate.

They took a virtual tour of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Catheterization Lab October 5, met a young heart transplant recipient and visited with parents of a baby who was about to have heart surgery. Also in October, Sweethearts learned about heart-healthy eating from a registered dietitian who taught them how small changes to their eating habits could lead to a healthier lifestyle. The month ended with a mother-daughter brunch and fashion show featuring designer Charli Sotomora. This former Central Arkansas Sweetheart was just back to Arkansas from showing her collection during New York Fashion Week.

On November 11, the Sweetheart dads had their turn, attending a father-daughter barbecue with their girls.

To round out their training after the holidays, Sweethearts attended CPR training at Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services and joined a virtual call with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Professor Kevin D. Phelan, who showed the girls the anatomy of the heart through a live ultrasound and 3D reconstruction of CT scans.

Prior to the Sweethearts’ formal introduction at the Heart Ball, they were presented Sweetheart necklaces provided by Sissy’s Log Cabin on March 16.  

When the pandemic was raging last fall, the Sweethearts wrote thank you notes to front-line workers and dropped off baked goods to providers at pharmacies, nursing homes, hospitals and MEMS.  In the spring, they had the opportunity to volunteer in person at UAMS, CHI St. Vincent and Baptist Health.  

Lily Wooderson, Emma Price, Sophie Eble, Elizabeth McGibbony, Abigail Henderson, Sophia Peacock 

Camille Owens, Caroline Scurlock, Audrey Gardner, Madeline Kaemmerling, Alexa Shemper, Madelyn Considine

Isabelle Bailey, Lilly Stephens, Hailey Porcelli, Taylor Lea, Rachel Riley

Elena Coleman, Kennedy Stotts, Kampbell Davis, Belle McKelvey, Kaitlyn Biddle

Catherine Raffaelli, Olivia Hopkins, Riley Benedetti, Elaine Barg, Emmy McLeod, Ashley Adams, Whitney Stewart

Katelyn Lane, Elizabeth Fason, Sydnie Washington, Emily Harton, Charlotte Lasiter, Aubree McCullough, Katherine White 

Katelyn Lane, Elizabeth Fason, Sydnie Washington, Emily Harton, Charlotte Lasiter, Aubree McCullough, Katherine White 

Eliza Jane Null, Haven McCormack, Ashley Kassissieh, Isabella McConnell, Ava Sims, Kathryn Bailey

Not pictured: Ava Bravo, Caroline Conner, Elizabeth Grobmyer, Sarah Hampson, Ava Masingill, Arden Robinson, Claire Wallace, Ashton Wilibanks

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