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Huntsville community shows a lot of heart

HUNTSVILLE — No hearts were broken but a fundraising record was set at this year’s American Heart Association Heart Ball.

The annual event raised more than $470,000 to support research, improve patient care and provide equitable health, according to Michelle Lewzader with the Heart Association.

“This was the best year ever,” she said. “We raised more than we ever have.”

Lewzader says this year’s event highlighted CRP education and awareness in our community.

“We are working to get more lifesavers in the community knowing how to do hand-only CPR,” she said. “The more people we have who know hands-only CPR, the more lives are saved.

“Every minute matters.”

Local developer Louis Breland and heart surgeon Dr. Shaf Holden were honored at the event.

“Louis and Patti Breland have supported so much in our community,” Lewzader said. “And a lot that many people don’t even know.

“With the Brelands’ support this year, we were able to provide CPR kits in schools.”

Breland, the 2023 Heart of the Community recipient, said he was honored to be able to support such important work.

“This is a wonderful honor,” he said. “Patty and I work to support a lot of causes in the community because that’s what responsible community partners do. Every one of us has been touched by heart disease or stroke, so this is really a cause that hits close to home for me.

“This is a very special community, it’s not only a great place to live and do business, but it’s incredibly generous and I’m proud to be a part of this place we all call home.”

Honored as the Physician of the Year was Huntsville Hospital’s Dr. Shaf Holden. The cardiothoracic surgeon was recognized for his work at the Huntsville Hospital’s Heart Center and Heart Institute.

“We were thrilled honor Dr. Holden and the Heart Center for the impact of their life-saving work in Huntsville,” said Lewzader.

Heart Ball emcee Marie Waxel, an anchor for WAAY-TV, also praised the community’s efforts to support lifesaving initiatives.

Marie Waxel (Contributed, 256 Today)

“It’s truly an honor to emcee Huntsville’s Heart Ball and witness our community join together to drive equitable health for all of us in North Alabama,” she said. “The funds stay in our community supporting the many medical, educational and research initiatives taking place in our own backyard.

“The incredible result of this year’s event shows the power of passion and purpose when hearts come together to save lives. I’m privileged to play a small role in the big picture and to have the support of WAAY 31 as well.”

This year’s Heart Ball was held in the Westin but Lewzader said the Von Braun Center will be the host next year.

“Mark your calendars for April 6, 2024, at the VBC,” she said. “It will be the 100th anniversary celebration of the American Heart Association and we will be working to continue our support of the North Alabama community.”

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