Outstanding Volunteer Youth Group
By Renarda A. Williams | Photography by Rett Peek
A critical component of creating stronger communities is cultivating the next generation of philanthropists. The Hot Springs Heart Ball Sweetheart Program, an annual program associated with the American Heart Association, is doing that very thing.
Comprised of high school young ladies in their sophomore and junior year, the Sweethearts are committed to learning about cardiovascular diseases and leading healthier lifestyles. The class of 2017-2018 included 39 Sweethearts and generated a record-breaking $63,102 towards the association’s fundraising efforts.
Kathryn and Paul Russell established the program 12 years ago in memory of their daughter, Caroline, who died at the age of 2 from an undetected heart condition. “We are so proud of the young ladies who have made commitments to both their personal heart health and to become life-long ambassadors for the American Heart Association,” notes Kathryn. “The skills and information that they learn during this program last a lifetime and contribute not only to their own health, but also to the health of their families and friends.
Throughout the year, the Sweethearts participate in educational and heart-healthy activities, and write essays about cardiovascular disease. The program culminates with the introduction of the Sweethearts at the AHA Heart Ball. This year, Jessica Jennings was recognized as the 2018 Sweetheart of the Ball for demonstrating dedication to the program and the most knowledge of cardiovascular disease. Jessica received the $2,000 Caroline Grace Russell Memorial Scholarship and custom Sweetheart Jewelry designed by Lauray’s—The Diamond Center. “Every year these young ladies dedicate so much time and effort into learning more about heart disease,” says Director of Communications & Marketing National Park Medical Center Heather Buckley. “Many young women leave this program with a passion for healthcare, with many going into nursing school, radiology programs and even some in medical school.”