|Ocala, FL -
April 15, 2012|
Published: Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
A sold-out crowd of 257 local American Heart Association supporters were treated to "an evening in Paris" on March 9. And they didn't have to travel beyond Hilton Ocala.
The event was a "huge success," said campaign chairwoman Amy Mangan, also the community relations manager for Progress Energy, one of the campaign's top sponsors. It raised $19,000 and much-needed awareness about heart disease.
"It exceeded our expectations, hopes and dreams of promoting a heart-healthy lifestyle in this community," Mangan said. "And we had fun while we were doing it."
After being greeted by heart-disease survivors and Vanguard and Forest ROTC students, key sponsors attended a VIP reception — courtesy of the Braised Onion restaurant — in the Hilton's French-themed ballroom.
The main event began at 7 p.m., kicked off by wine and champagne samplings provided by Cuvee Wine & Bistro, followed by French cuisine in the form of heavy hors d'oeuvres, prepared by Hilton staff.
Additional festivities included a silent auction, a French-themed photo booth donated by Emily McCollum and dancing to the band Second Slice.
A brief presentation offered a video testimonial by Joe Reichel, whose wife died at age 38 during her second open heart surgery.
One highlight of the evening, said Mangan, was the "Open Your Heart" call, during which attendees were challenged to make donations of any amount in honor of loved ones battling heart disease or those who have lost the battle. A red, heart-shaped balloon was tied to each donor's chair as they made their pledges.
"Our goal was to dress the Hilton ballroom in red hearts, and we did," said Mangan. "It was just beautiful."
The event was a gathering of Go Red sponsors: "These were people who had already given and they still opened up their wallets and gave again," said Staci McDonough, regional director of the American Heart Association. "It was really touching."
The $19,000 raised did not include event sponsorships, she noted.
Proceeds from the entire campaign totaled $110,000, which will be used for heart disease research, programs and education. The amount is "quite an accomplishment. This community is so giving," said McDonough.
Munroe Regional Medical Center is the year-round Marion County Goes Red sponsor, she said.
Previous fundraising events of the campaign included gentlemen-only dinners at Mark's Prime for the Red Tie Society for men who contributed $1,000-$2,500 to the campaign. New for this year: the Bow Tie Society, consisting of younger men who contributed at $250-$500.
The idea behind these February events, said Mangan, was to promote the importance of men living heart-healthy lifestyles and remind the men "to encourage the women in the lives to take care of themselves. Women are always taking care of everyone else."
Heart disease is ranked as the No. 1 killer of men and women, said McDonough. However, "alarming statistics" indicate most women are unaware of how prevalent it is among women. Thus, the campaign's focus on women.
Campaign chairwoman Amy Mangan, second from left, with her husband, Mike, pose with Nel Yeary and Allie and Ryan Robbins, who were attending the Go Red for Women fundrasier in March.