Washington Heart Ball caps off a decade of success

Published Feb 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm (Updated Feb 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm)

Three young ladies whose remarkable stories have been shared at Heart Balls and Heart Walks past will update attendees at this year’s 10th Anniversary Washington County & Mon Valley Heart Ball on March 2.

Mariah Mascara, a junior at Trinity High School, has been involved with the organization since she was 5 years old, shortly after having open-heart surgery to correct a heart defect. “At that young age, she was able to go and speak before CEOs, and do it eloquently,” said Diana Cummings, director of the American Heart Association in Washington. “She also went to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., for us, and was one of the first to get Senator Santorum to sign a bill for us.”

Kelly Henry, a senior at Peters Township High School, should have died three times before her first birthday. Thankfully, after several life-saving – albeit risky – surgeries, she has made amazing strides through the years. She has been involved with the Heart Walk, the Heart Ball and Heart Camp. She even had to watch her father, Bill, suffer, and recover from, congestive heart failure. “Her disease, and everything that she has gone through, has not given her any bitterness,” Cummings said. “She plans on becoming a cardiologist and focusing on children and adolescents.”

Olivia McClay is a freshman in college, but following an accident in her early teenage years, suffered a stroke. “The year after it happened, she was calling me and asking what she could do to create awareness,” Cummings said. “She wanted to say, ‘Hey young people, this can happen to you. I was a healthy young girl with no problems.’”

The trio has bonded over their experiences, and to help with the Open Your Heart Campaign at the event, each will tell attendees 10 things that they have been able to do because of research and advancements in heart disease. For example, Henry noted that she got accepted into 10 colleges, got to go to 10 dances, and work 10 hours a week at her part time job. “We wanted to make it light, but also serious to realize that things that we all take for granted, these girls might not have been able to do,” Cummings said.

This is why the research that the American Heart Association does is so important – Cummings said the research of just one doctor can save millions of lives. “Not only is heart disease the number one killer in America, it is also the number one birth defect,” Cummings said. “It may be a birth defect that is noticeable right away, or it may show up when they are 5 or 7 or 10. You don’t know.”

The theme of this year’s Heart Ball is “Moulin Rouge.” It takes place on March 2 at the Southpointe Hilton Garden Inn. Tickets for the VIP portion and for the main event are still available, and can be purchased by calling 412-208-3554, or by visiting heart.org/washingtonpaheartball.

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