American Heart Association Presents "Young at Heart" Greater Cincinnati: Heart Ball March 2019

Heart Ball Executive Leadership Team: Sitting, left to right: Mark Jahnke, Heart Ball co-chair; Karen Jahnke, Heart Ball co-chair; David Cassady, Open Your Heart co-chair; Kathy Cassady, Open Your Heart co-chair. Standing, left to right: Dr. DP Suresh, Patrick Brown, Mark McDonald, John Mongelluzzo, Bill McCloy, Joseph Hricovsky, Joel Stone, Jeff Hock, Michelle Boutillette Hudgens, JB Buse. Not pictured: Rob Cercek, Garren Colvin, Jerin Dunham, Tedd Friedman, Andy Wade


Ol’ Blue Eyes probably wasn’t singing about diet, exercise and other elements of a heart-healthy lifestyle with his whimsical take on a youthful disposition. But the Greater Cincinnati American Heart Association (AHA) figured the “Young at Heart” concept works just fine as its theme for this year’s 26th annual Greater Cincinnati Heart Ball.

The black-tie event, benefiting the American Heart Association, is March 2 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. It will be an evening of glitz and glamor featuring gourmet dining and dancing, interactive auctions and a Young Professionals
After Party.

The Heart Ball’s “Young at Heart” theme is a poignant reminder that the youngest hearts can have problems, and it drives home the point that developing healthy habits can literally lead to a young heart as one enters the older adult years.

“Our efforts are aimed at keeping younger patients free of heart disease and stroke. You can maintain a certain lifestyle to keep yourself heart healthy,” says DP Suresh, M.D., past Heart Ball co-chair and Medical Director, St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular.   

Michael Fisher, CEO and President of Cincinnati Children’s, and his family will be honored with this year’s Heart of the City award for their philanthropic contributions to the city of Cincinnati.

In fact, it was the significant grants from the American Heart Association to aid in research at Cincinnati Children’s that prompted Cincinnati attorney Mark Jahnke to step forward and co-chair the fundraising effort for this year’s Heart Ball. Several years ago, Jahnke became a board member at Children’s and saw firsthand the difference AHA funding can have on research.

“Children’s does a massive amount of research locally and AHA is an important provider to the research. The amount of AHA local funding is what sealed the deal for me to co-chair the Heart Ball,” Jahnke said. “We want to highlight pediatric heart care and healthy lifestyles for the young.”

For many years, Cincinnati has been among the top 10 Heart Ball events in the country, surpassing what is raised in many larger cities. Last year’s event raised slightly more than $2 million, continuing its reputation as the largest single one-night fundraiser in the region. Jahnke says he hopes to match last year’s efforts and feels patrons continue to generously support the Heart Ball because they can connect the dots to AHA efforts at research and prevention in the Tri-state.

“It is very impressive what the annual raise has been,” Jahnke says. “In large part, that is attributable to people understanding the cause to make heart disease less likely. People should know about the significant amount of research funding that the AHA provides right here in our community. We have almost $7 million worth of funding currently at work at UC and Children’s.”


A Leader in Treating Congenital Heart Disease

Many people in this region are aware of Cincinnati Children’s outstanding reputation, most recently listed as the number two spot in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Children’s Hospital ranking. What may be less known is how its outstanding heart care contributed to that ranking.

“All of our 10 medical specialities are ranked in the top 10, and we are ranked number eight nationally for cardiovascular care,” says Mark McDonald, vice president of the Heart Institute at Children’s. “We treat 23,000 children and adults every year, in-patient and out-patient, with 650 surgeries. We have one of the largest basic cardiovascular research departments in the country. Currently we have a significant AHA grant to research hypertension in children.”


Reaching Young Hearts with a Healthy Message

The Heart Ball also implements various outreach programming to help create healthy lifestyles for those young hearts. Among those are two ongoing AHA programs –  Recess in the Stadium and Fit 4 Life Bootcamp.

The annual Recess in the Stadium attracts over 2,500 children, ages 4-14, to romp around on the field at the Cincinnati Bengals stadium while learning and playing at interactive stations. Events include a 40-yard dash, health screenings for kids, punt, pass and kick stations, pop-a-shot, CPR training and good nutrition habits.

“This is an opportunity for us to promote an active lifestyle among children,” says Michelle Hudgens, Children’s Heart Institute Business Director. “We are looking to combat childhood obesity. Recess in the Stadium brings a prevention message to the community through a free, fun, health and wellness event for kids of all ages.”

Additionally, there is a science show-and-tell with cardiologists demonstrating pig and cow hearts to teach children how the heart works.

And, speaking of the young at heart, Hudgens points out, “I see a lot of adults who are just as excited as their kids to be able to be on the stadium field.”

The 10th annual Recess in the Stadium will be held June 8, again in an AHA partnership with Cincinnati Children’s and the Cincinnati Bengals. (The 2018 event was moved to October because the stadium turf was being replaced last June).

For over a decade, TriHealth has partnered with select Boys and Girls Club chapters to sponsor the Fit 4 Life Bootcamp, held in the summer at the MLB Reds Urban Youth Academy in Roselawn. Over 200 youngsters are put through the paces of various activities including games that educate them on sound diet choices.

“We try to make it fun and keep them excited when talking about healthy lifestyles. We make the point that there is more than fast food out there,” says Lisa Baker, executive director of the TriHeath Heart Institute. “We do a lot of activities. They definitely work up a sweat when they are with us for that morning.”


Heart Disease Battle – In It for the Long Haul

Jahnke reminds Heart Ball patrons that money raised is not just for research, but helps fund a number of AHA programming efforts. He notes the AHA has various educational programs to promote healthy lifestyles, is a leader of the ongoing anti-smoking effort, is pushing legislation to raise the age of buying tobacco and has lobbied to make CPR training a graduation requirement in Ohio and Kentucky.

Jahnke says the Heart Ball also benefits from having two of the area’s major health care systems – St. Elizabeth Healthcare and
TriHealth – signed on as presenting sponsors. He says it helps patrons understand the contributions to the AHA and the high-quality healthcare provided in the region.

“As a regional leader in the treatment of cardiovascular conditions and stroke, TriHealth shares the American Heart Association’s commitment to researching the causes of heart and vascular diseases and bringing forth new therapies to improve patient outcomes,” says Stephen Lewis, M.D., TriHealth System Chief for Cardiovascular Care. “The Heart Ball and other events throughout Heart Month give us the opportunity to educate the community about behaviors to improve their heart and vascular health.”

Last year, St. Elizabeth Healthcare was awarded accreditation as a Cardiovascular Center of Excellence by the American Heart Association, which recognizes hospitals committed to proven treatment guidelines in a holistic system of care.

“When we opened the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute in 2015, we set an ambitious goal to reduce heart-related deaths in Northern Kentucky by 25 percent by 2025,” says Garren Colvin, St. Elizabeth President and CEO. “In partnership with the American Heart Association’s goals and efforts, we are on pace to achieve this important goal. Improvements in patients’ lifestyle choices, prevention strategies, and treatment options have contributed to our heart patients living longer and enjoying more time with their families and friends.”

AHA fundraisers also note we are in a period where private sources of funding are becoming more important, especially with government research expenditures shrinking, or at least unlikely to expand. And Jahnke points out to Heart Ball patrons that the heart disease battle is one that is ongoing.

“The way diseases are attacked is not a eureka moment in the lab. People don’t suddenly come up with a cure for heart disease or cancer. It’s one inch at a time. Usually you are standing on the shoulders of someone who did research before and taking another small step that will provide a benefit to patients.”


The Greater Cincinnati affiliate of the American Heart Association is located at 5211 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227. For more information, contact Alicia Lehnert at 513.699.4222 or email 

For tickets and information about the Heart Ball, visit