Event Recap: 2015 Hampton Roads Go Red Luncheon

Never in my days have I seen so many ladies wearing red.

And never in my life have I been so proud to put on a red dress and join these lovely ladies for lunch, in support of a cause that’s very near to my heart—and the heart of every woman, everywhere.

Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women? I didn’t either, until I attended the 2015 Hampton Roads Go Red Luncheon on May 29 at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Hampton.  The third annual luncheon is hosted by the American Heart Association, which launched the national Go Red for Women initiative in 2004 to raise women’s awareness of their risk of heart disease, educate them on how to reduce their risk and inspire them to take control of their health. The luncheon not only included a delicious and heart-healthy meal, but offered plenty of fun and informative ways for women to become educated about heart health and inspired to make good choices regarding diet and lifestyle.

Before taking my seat at the luncheon, I visited the lineup of booths outside the door. First things first: I had forgotten lipstick, and what’s a red dress without lipstick to match? Thankfully, the Macy’s Lipstick Bar came to my rescue—and the rescue of many other ladies at the luncheon. As the national sponsor for the event, Macy’s Lipstick Bar had plenty of red hues available to give each gal the pop of color to make her stand out in even more red.

go red for women luncheon macy's lipstick bar go red for women luncheon macy's lipstick bar

While visiting the booths for Riverside Health and Bon Secours Virginia Health System (local sponsor for the event) I took some informational pamphlets, some that are beneficial to my age group and some I plan to share with my mom.

go red for women bon secours

Bon Secours even had a game set up where guests were to distinguish which warning signs can accompany a heart attack and which can accompany a stroke. Those who were able to name three for each won a prize, but the real prize is knowing the differences between the two.

go red for women signs of heart attack and stroke

Food is indeed my weakness and free samples are the best in my book, so I was delighted to try some gazpacho samples from Karen Endsley, host of the local cooking show, “Cooking From the Heart” on Cox 11. More on her in a bit!

karen endsley go red for women luncheon

And Endsley wasn’t the only celebrity I had the pleasure of meeting that day. Miss Virginia Plus America, Ynette Evans, was there wearing her beautiful crown and sash and—of course—a red dress to match the occasion.

go red for women miss virginia plus america

I saw lots of ladies checking out the Purse-onality Auction, a silent auction where each package is centered on an adorable handbag. Donors had customized their purses to reflect their likes, hobbies and support of the American Heart Association.

When it came time for the luncheon to begin, I entered a banquet hall gorgeously decorated with red tablecloths, glittery hearts pinned to branch centerpieces and at each place setting: a small Macy’s bag that contained a $10 gift card.

go red for women luncheon crowne plaza hampton

Guests enjoyed a crisp salad, roasted potatoes, steamed summer veggies and chicken topped with mushroom gravy for lunch—finished with red velvet cake (how appropriate!) with whipped cream and fresh blueberries for dessert.

go red for women lunch go red for women red velvet cake

As ladies (and some gents, too!) enjoyed lunch, various speakers addressed the crowd, all with a story to share and all who are passionate for the cause. Some of the speakers included Nhu Yeargin, Chair of the American Heart Association Hampton Roads Board of Directors, Co-emcees Nicole Livas and Anita Blanton from WAVY TV 10, and Jennifer Smith, 2015 Go Red For Women Luncheon Chair. When Sue Lebrato, Chair of the 2015 Circle of Red, asked each person who knows someone who has had heart disease or a stroke to raise their hand, I was astonished to see nearly every hand in the room go up and made me realize why so many ladies are personally dedicated to the awareness of this disease.

Next to speak was Karen Endsley (“Cooking From the Heart”) who shared her passion that most any mom can connect with: healthy and nutritious meals that can be prepared on a budget. “At the end of the day, the last thing you feel like doing is whipping up a healthy meal,” she explained. On her show, she shares recipes and tips for getting moms out of the kitchen as soon as possible so that they can spend more time with their families. “Life is incredible and short, so we need to focus on what’s important,” she explains. Endsley also noted how we women take on the world and really strive to “do it all” so it’s extremely important that we keep ourselves healthy so that we can continue to take care of it all.

julia allen go red for womenThe luncheon concluded with a compelling speech from National Go Red for Women Spokesperson and double heart attack survivor Julia Allen. She begins by asking the people at each table to count off “1, 2, 3” and for each third person to stand. “Now imagine that all the people standing will die within a year,” she says. This grim example relates to the statistic that 1 in 3 women die of heart disease, and more women than men die of heart disease.

Allen’s story began much like any typical mother’s. She was stressed out about finding the time to prepare healthy meals for her family, keeping her home spotless, succeeding at her full-time job, shuttling kids to their after-school activities and all the other countless roles that moms fulfill.

She always put her family first, even when she began experiencing symptoms of heart attack one day in 2013. While at work, she looked up her symptoms (heartburn, nausea, hot flashes, dizziness, shortness of breath, tightening in her jaw and pain down her arm), and landed on the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women site, which prompted her to realize that something was seriously wrong.

Instead of calling an ambulance, she headed home to make sure her kids had an after-school snack ready, then drove herself to the hospital where she immediately collapsed. It turns out she was having a heart attack—and had a second one later that evening.

Allen had ignored the warning signs for too long and neglected to look after her own self, always putting the needs of others first. But thanks to a complete lifestyle change, which includes eating healthy, exercising and not stressing out so much about the little things, she’s not only gotten her health up to par but is now focused on making other women aware of their risks.

Each woman in the room could surely connect to Allen’s story and take into consideration their own stresses, family history and lifestyle choices that could one day be a factor of heart disease. I left the Crowne Plaza that day, not only satisfied with the tasty lunch and pleased with the amount of cool swag I’d scored from the event—but most importantly, I felt educated and ready to take health into my own hands more than ever before. 

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