North by Northwest: Party with a Purpose
Paint the Town Red Heart Ball
Photographs courtesy of American Heart Associtation Northwest Arkansas
One in three Americans will suffer from heart disease. It’s a localized and an important issue, and in northwest Arkansas the American Heart Association is using a “party with a purpose” to fight for the cause.
“It’s a fun event, and people look forward to it, but we want to make sure they know why they’re there,” Stephanie Daniels, event director, said. “Heart disease is going to affect you. Everyone knows someone who’s fought heart disease or stroke.”
The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Paint the Town Red Heart Ball was started locally 11 years ago and has raised more than $1 million to support research for heart disease. Though the AHA hosts several events in the northwest Arkansas community to educate about the No. 1 killer in America, Paint the Town Red is focused on reaching young professionals.
“This event focuses on the young professional demographic that typically doesn’t focus on heart health,” Daniels said. “They don’t think they can be affected by disease or stroke, but they can. We have 80 percent control over our heart health with diet and exercise, and young people ages 20 to 45 need to be aware. ”
To bring awareness to the cause, the AHA draws them in with a party. Each year 1,200 people dressed in red spend a Saturday evening packed into the Fayetteville Town Center enjoying delicious local fare, drinks and of course, dancing.
Boom Kinetic, northwest Arkansas’ own high-energy, pop-rock ‘80s cover band, has been playing at the event since 2007. “They came to us to bring a more youthful, energetic feel to the party,” Wiley Seeger, lead singer, said. “Each year we try to improve on the previous, in hopes of giving the people something to dance and sing to.”
The AHA continuously improves on the event, which is always sold out, from previous years and searches for more space to accommodate the growing crowd in the town center by eliminating tables and proposing more of a party vibe.
With a silent auction in one room, the main ballroom holds the heart of the event with a relaxed feel and unique décor donated from Eventures. Sponsor lounges are set up for guests to peruse, and good eats and drinks are in abundance. During the 2011 event, Dr. Pepper’s lounge was a martini and chocolate bar, while other sponsors lounges were luxuriously decorated like grandiose Broadway.
“It all comes back to fighting for a good cause,” Daniels said. “But people can have fun fighting heart disease too.”
Though several sponsor tables are set up in the ballroom, the event does not include a sit-down dinner. Guests are free to choose from 15 restaurant stations arranged in the ballroom, sharing some of their most popular dishes for guests to indulge in unlimited taste testing. Several restaurants for this year’s event include Bordino’s, Emilia’s Kitchen, Crabby’s, Penguin Ed’s and P.F. Chang’s.
Aside from the grand party, even the band notices the important purpose to be gained from the event.
“The first, and most important, reason we’re honored to represent the event is that it puts us on stage to help raise money for one of the largest charity organizations in the country,” Seeger said. “Try to give me someone whose family hasn't been affected by heart disease.”
Daniels became involved with the American Heart Association as a volunteer because her father died of heart disease. Since high school she’s seen the importance in keeping herself and her family healthy. She strives to show the northwest Arkansas community the importance of the AHA and the research developments behind the money that’s raised.
“People may typically think research doesn’t affect them or they can’t see it, but we have so many resources to help people become aware,” she said. “We [the AHA] funded the development of pacemakers and informed everyone about CPR. Even though we aren’t a local organization, we affect more people locally than any organization.”
Though Daniels knows Paint the Town Red will be fun and leave everyone excited for next year’s event, she hopes they’ll leave with even a little more. “Whether it leads them to go to the website when they get home, quit smoking, or not eat that hamburger on Monday, it’s really to bring awareness to heart disease,” Daniels said.
To learn more about the AHA or to purchase tickets to the Jan. 21st event, visit heart.org/paintthetownred.