The Heart Ball

Photography by Wes Battoclette

Heart disease is the number one cause of death among men and women in the United States. As the rate of childhood obesity continues to rise heart disease is now threatening the lives of children and adolescents. The American Heart Association’s mission is “to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” Through this mission the American Heart Association’s Greater Cincinnati Heart Ball is working to address heart disease with the help of numerous generous supporters and sponsors. 

Each year more than 1,000 guests attend the annual black tie gala to raise funds for cardiovascular research. The Heart Ball is more than a night of fundraising, it is an event that impacts the community throughout the year through research and community outreach. 

“Our community greatly benefits from the American Heart Association through its funding of lifesaving research and educational programs,” says Jerry Oliphant, EVP and COO at TriHealth, the presenting sponsor of the 2015 Heart Ball. “Part of our (TriHealth’s) mission is to support the community. Through the American Heart Association and our support of the Heart Ball, we are able to expand and continue that mission.” 

Through the sponsorship of the Heart Ball two community programs continue to thrive, Fit 4 Life Bootcamp and Recess in the Stadium. Through Fit 4 Life Bootcamp and Recess in the Stadium the American Heart Association is able to teach children and their families about the importance of nutrition and exercise. 

Fit 4 Life Bootcamp is made possible through a partnership between the American Heart Association, TriHealth Heart Institute, the Boys & Girls Club and the Cincinnati Reds. The program provides fitness and health education for kids at various Boys & Girls Clubs in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Each location is visited twice for a one-hour session which includes nutritional counseling, games and physical activity. Special guests, such as the Reds mascot attend the event to help keep the children engaged. “It is a great experience for the kids and ties in with our mission,” says Oliphant. 

Recess in the Stadium is sponsored by a collaboration between the American Heart Association, Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute and the Cincinnati Bengals. This free event is for school-aged children and their families to learn and play while experiencing the Cincinnati Bengal’s stadium. Activities include a 40-yard dash on the playing field, running and jumping through the Bengal’s inflatable playground, health screenings for children and adults, an ask-the-doctor booth, cheering and dancing with the Ben-Gals, special guests and drawings for gifts. 

“The first year I believe we started with about 300 children and their parents and last year we had about 1,100 attendees,” says Mark McDonald, board chairman of the Cincinnati American Heart Association and Assistant Vice President of the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “This year we hope to have 3,000. It’s a major effort with close to 150 volunteers. It is an event where in three to four hours we can get the point across about a healthy lifestyle and how it effects your cardiovascular health. It is a fun event to watch and be a part of.” 

In addition to Fit 4 Life Bootcamp and Recess in the Stadium, the American Heart Association collaborates with the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to present an annual Research Experience. Attendees get the opportunity to have one-on-one discussions with cutting-edge researchers focusing on cardiovascular disease and stroke.

All these events will be made possible this year by the support of the 2015 Heart Ball, themed “Playing for your Heart.” The Heart Ball presented by TriHealth Heart Institute will be held on Saturday, February 21 at the Duke Energy Center. This year’s event is co-chaired by Kim and George Vincent.

“We love Cincinnati and we love supporting organizations that help Cincinnati be better, stronger and a vibrant place to live,” says Kim. “The American Heart Association does a lot in the community. We want our children and grandchildren to grow up and enjoy living here as much as we do.

“The Heart Ball has always been a big event because heart disease is the biggest killer among men and women. I think that speaks for itself. Everyone is touched by the disease in some way. Whether it is a relative or a friend, someone has had a stroke or heart attack that you know and the results can be devastating. We agreed to chair and support the Heart Ball because heart disease affect so many people and it is hard not to support an organization that does so much good between research, community outreach and advocacy.”

This year’s event will honor Kim and Gary Heiman with the Heart of the City award. The Heiman’s were selected by the Vincent’s for their vast involvement in the community. 

“We’ve gotten to know them over the years through their philanthropic involvement in the city and they are quietly doing good throughout the community,” says Kim. “This was a way to thank them for their initiatives to make Cincinnati a better place.”

Attendees of this year’s event will enjoy a delicious dinner, silent and live auction and an evening full of support. “It is going to be the best Heart Ball in history. We expect to have a sold out crowd and record attendance,” says George. “The auction items should be outstanding – it is one of the great events of the year.”

This year’s silent and live auction will feature a number of outstanding items and experiences. Thanks to the support of Cincinnati Bell, guests will have the opportunity to bid electronically for the first time in the events history.

“I’m super excited to have electronic bidding at this year’s auction,” says Alicia Gerlinger, auction chair and a longtime supporter. “Electronic bidding will give people the opportunity to anonymously bid. A lot of people don’t like to bid against one another – people see a friends name and they shy away.”

Attendees will be able to bid throughout the evening up until the presentation. This year’s auction will include a stay at Monteverdi Tuscany, an opportunity to throw the first pitch at a Cincinnati Reds’ game and more. 

At 9:30 p.m. the main event will come to a close and the party will continue with a Young Professional After Party. The After Party will include a night of dancing to the music of Johnny Clueless and DJ Ron Mixico, lite bites and activities. 

“Traditionally the Heart Ball has been targeted towards established professionals and not quite the young professional crowd. So we are trying to build awareness among young professionals about some of the issues the American Heart Association addresses,” says Matt Giannetti, After Party co-chair. “We provide them a way to get involved early. We take it beyond the After Party, we have a number of young professional events throughout the year to get them involved and create networking opportunities.”

“The After Party has a club, lounge atmosphere. The Heart Ball theme, ‘Playing for your Heart’ will be reflected at the after party through a number of sports themed activates,” says Barrett Buse, After Party co-chair. We hope this year’s After Party will be bigger and better than ever. Last year at the After Party we had 300 young professionals come out and enjoy the activities we had. We are targeting to bump that number up and have 500 young professionals this year.”

On average the Heart Ball raises over $1 million each year. Most of the $1 million raised stays right here in Greater Cincinnati to fund research at UC Health and Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute. 

“The Heart Ball is one of the three main fundraising events that occur in the Greater Cincinnati Area and the funds from the Heart Ball help fund research and education around heart disease and stroke. The Ball rolls all year long through various community events that focus on research and educating the youth, so that is the purpose of the Heart Ball and why it is so important not only to the American Heart Association but also to UC Health in general,” says Lee Ann Liska, President and CEO of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. 

Through the American Heart Association’s support of UCMC, the hospital received the American Heart Association, “Get with the Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus” award for implementing specific quality improvement measures. “In collaboration with the American Heart Association we launched indoor and outdoor walking paths to encourage physical activity and heart-healthy options,” says Liska. “So we are completely linked with the American Heart Association.” 

Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute has been affiliated with the American Heart Association and Heart Ball for about 17 years. “Part of the American Heart Association’s mission is to find a cure for heart disease and stroke. Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute is a recipient of well over $800,000 in grants looking at different types of basic science research focused on heart disease,” says McDonald.  

In addition to supporting various community events and local research, this year’s Heart Ball organizers have taken on an additional initiative – CPR. “Members of the Heart Ball committee and cabinet members of the heart association went to Columbus on advocacy day and lobbied for CPR to become a high school graduation requirement,” says Kim. “Bystander CPR is so easy to learn. It can double or triple a heart attack victim’s chance of survival, so it is a really important initiative that we have taken on this year.” 




For tickets and information about the Heart Ball, visit ‚Äč

The Cincinnati affiliate of the American Heart Association is located at 5211 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45227. You can reach them at 513.281.4048 or visit their website at

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