Heart-to-Heart With Visit Anaheim and the AHA

Visit Anaheim's partnership with the American Heart Association, the "Heart-to-Heart" campaign, gives lifesaving training and tools to local schools.

Photo Credit: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Visit Anaheim

This November, the American Heart Association (AHA) brought its Scientific Sessions meeting, along with its nearly 18,000 attendees, back to Anaheim after a 16-year absence. To celebrate its return — in large part due to the Anaheim Convention Center’s 200,000-square-foot expansion that debuted in September — and to honor both entities’ missions to positively impact the local community, AHA’s Orange County Division and Visit Anaheim decided to partner on not just a one-off community service event, but a long-term commitment to helping Anaheim residents.

“When we started the conversations [about the initiative], it was a fantastic vision and partnership between the American Heart Association and Visit Anaheim,” Danielle Sapia, executive director of the American Heart Association, Orange County Division, said. “We both really wanted to show Anaheim that we care about the community in combination with Scientific Sessions happening.”

And so “Heart-to-Heart” was born. Through the campaign, launched during Scientific Sessions 2017 Nov. 11-15, two Anaheim Union District high schools received the American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools Training Kits, as well as lessons in CPR by members of AHA’s Orange County Division.“When you look at the statistics on the leading cause of death in Orange County, heart disease is at the top,” Jay Burress, president and CEO of Visit Anaheim, said.

High school students may seem like an unlikely choice to receive CPR training, but they were selected for a very important reason. According to the AHA, 70 percent of cardiac arrest incidents happen at home. By training high-school students, teens will be equipped to deal with a cardiac-related medical emergency at home. “They’ve now got a skill set that hopefully they’ll never have to use,” Burress said, “but if they do, it will help save a life.”

Performing CPR on someone experiencing cardiac arrest could increase the chance of survival by more than 50 percent, Sapid added. “As the next generation, I think it’s really important to provide our students this type of resource for themselves,” Sapia said. “We’re able to equip what we call an army of lifesavers by teaching these high-school students this great life saving tool.”

The giveback does not end with two high schools. Since the AHA intends to return to Anaheim for future shows, the “Heart-to-Heart” campaign will continue during AHA’s local meetings through 2021, at which point all eight Anaheim Union District high schools will have received CPR kits and training.

According to Sapia, this initiative is more than just leaving a legacy behind. “This is a great launch and collaboration with the city to continue to make it our effort to decrease heart disease and stroke. We’re continuing to grow our efforts in collaboration with Anaheim,” Sapia said. “We’re not leaving anything behind.”

Casey Gale