Heart Ball to raise money for childhood obesity

By Azra Drljevic

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Black ties and $200 plates will come together tomorrow night to raise funds to help prevent childhood obesity.

UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital is hosting the American Heart Association’s Central Kentucky Heart Ball tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort on Newtown Pike.

The annual black-tie fundraiser, which raises money for heart research and disease prevention, is focusing this year’s ball on child obesity and its links to premature death.

Excess weight is causing children to develop heart problems that are normally found in adults and can lead to conditions such as Type-2 diabetes, according to a news release.

“Diet problems in children can lead to heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Tim Bricker, chair of pediatrics at the children’s hospital.

The AHA works to prevent these conditions by funding advocacy, education and research for heart disease and stroke. In the past years, the AHA has awarded $5.4 million to the university and the UK College of Medicine to continue research, Bricker said.

“More Heart Association money goes for research in Kentucky than is raised in Kentucky,” Bricker said. “We’re very successful in heart research.”

The night’s events include dinner, dancing, a silent auction and live auction. The Lexington Youth Ballet and the Dan Jackson Band will perform.

The theme for this year’s ball is “Paint the Town Red…for a Healthier Generation.”

“The Heart Association logo is red and being around Valentine’s Day, it makes sense,” said Kathy Lerza, executive director of Central Kentucky Heart Association.

Lerza said students are encouraged to volunteer to assist with registrations, escorting people to their seats and delivering items for auction.  Currently, 40 volunteers have signed on to help with various tasks.

Integrated strategic communications senior Jessica Daniels is an intern for public relations at UK, and is helping with the ball.

“It doesn’t matter what major you are,” Daniels said. “It’s a great opportunity to be part of something that’s really going to help people.”

Emily Long, a communications senior and an intern at the children’s hospital, found out about the event from her supervisor and encouraged her roommates to volunteer as well.

“It’s a great cause to volunteer for,” Long said. “A good time, for a good cause.”

Tickets for the Heart Ball are $200 per person and include the dinner, dancing and two drink tickets. A lot of companies sponsor the event and reserve seats based on how much they donate, Lerza said.

In its 17 years, the ball has raised more than $1 million to fight heart disease and stroke. Last year the event raised over $250,000.

The goal for the ball this year is to raise another $300,000, Lerza said.