The American Heart Association’s 16th Annual Charleston SC Heart Ball Art and Wine Auction was an elegant, remarkable and heart-warming event for a vitally important cause.
The event took place in the Crystal Ballroom of the Marriot in downtown Charleston and was magnificently hosted by the Coastal Market President of TD Bank, Dixon Woodward. Upon walking into the event amongst beautiful gowns and tidy tuxedos, you immediately noticed a select group of women. These ladies stood out for a very distinct reason, they were all wearing fancy hats. I later learned that these women are indeed, The Hat Ladies of Charleston. They are a group of women who volunteer at a multitude of events in Charleston with a fantastic motto iterated to me by their leader Archie Burkel, “fashion meets compassion.” And that motto could not be better for the Charleston Heart Ball.
The night began with a chance to mingle, enjoy the open bar and partake in the ongoing silent auction. Once the doors to the Crystal Ballroom opened, the band began to play and everyone found their tables. There was a well-organized and delicious dinner that started off with an Arugula Salad followed by a Herb Rubbed Roasted 6oz Filet with a Port Wine Demi-Glaze and Shrimp Scampi. This was all topped off with a Mixed Berry Napoleon for dessert.
After dinner, the live auction commenced. This was an entertaining portion of the evening that portrayed a spectacular array of art, as well as wine and trips that were auctioned off with all of the proceeds still going to the AHA. Intertwined with the live auction, was the main event of the night: the two featured survivors of heart disease were recognized and had a chance to share their stories.
Maddie has already undergone two open-heart surgeries and is only 4 years old. She looked absolutely stunning in her red dress, and her story was both inspiring and heart wrenching. The other survivor, a close friend of mine, Justin Repshas appeared with his mom and girlfriend. He was kind enough to share with me the impact the AHA has had on his life and I quote:
“I was honored to be presented at the heart ball… as a CPR survivor and heart disease patient, I believe it is important to share my story with others to raise awareness that heart disease can affect anyone old or young, healthy or unhealthy. I just feel very fortunate to be here today supporting what the AHA does and to be able to let others know how valuable it can be to learn CPR and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
“The knowledge of the medical staff gave Justin the full life he has today.” Justin’s mother’s words reached out as a tribute and thank you for every one in attendance supporting the cause.
As the night slowed down, I stood off to the side hoping to capture a picture of the two survivors together, when I met eyes with Maddie. Without hesitation, she stopped what she was doing, walked over to me with her arms wide and gave me one of the most life-changing hugs I have ever received. Such a small girl with such a wonderfully large and loving heart had touched my life in a way that was unknown to me before. With that hug, Maddie helped me realize the impact and importance of the AHA.
While the event was chic, lovely and entertaining, the main reason that more than 400 leaders of the Charleston Community gathered together was for the cause. The AHA funds cutting-edge research, conducts lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocates protecting public health. Heart disease and stroke are the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, claiming more than 813,000 American lives. The supporters and guests at the Heart Ball not only are aiding the AHA with their money, but also with their hearts. While some boogying on the dance floor truly ended the night, the words of Maddie in an adorable little voice were the actually ending when she held the microphone and said, “thank you for coming! See you next year!”