By Dustin Turner


The American Heart Association’s mission is personal for Andi Van Airsdale, the executive director of the association of the CSRA. And so the annual Heart Ball on Feb. 20, one of the organizations biggest fundraisers, is high on her list of priorities these days. “My husband was out for an eight-mile run along the canal and had a heart attack,” she says. Luckily, he did not require surgery, thanks to angioplasty, and has no problems now. “He was only 55 when he had the heart attack,” Van Airsdale says. “You never think it’ll happen to you, but it can happen to anyone.

About the Association

The exact mission of the American Heart Association, she says, is simple: To reduce death from heart attacks and strokes by 20 percent by the year 2020. And she thinks they can do it. To do that, however, requires lots of research, which in turn requires a lot of money.

One way the association receives funds is by direct donations. According to information provided by Van Airsdale, every donation is spent the following way: 39.1 percent to public health education, 20.8 percent to research, 13.1 percent to fundraising, 7.9 percent to management and general expenses, 5.1 percent to community services and 14 percent to professional education and training.

But the group also has to hold events to raise funds for its efforts in research, education and more.

Making a Difference

The association funds research, education and advocacy efforts. For example, because of the group’s efforts, it is law that Georgia high school students must pass a CPR course before graduation. Such is not the case in South Carolina, Van Airsdale says, but the CSRA organization will be working again this year to get CPR into the Palmetto State’s schools.

The national American Heart Association this past fall received a grant for $25 million. That $25 million, Van Airsdale says, was matched by Google. The $50 million will go toward research to find a cure for coronary artery disease, which leads to heart attacks and strokes.

Cardiac issues that the American Heat Association researches and educate on include: arrhythmia, cholesterol, congenital defects in children and adults, diabetes, heart attacks, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke and more. So, if you’ve been prescribed medicine for high blood pressure or diabetes,” Van Airsdale says, “it is vital that you take it.”

The Ball

The annual 2016 CSRA Heart Ball will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Marriott Augusta, 1 10th St., downtown. Guests at the Heart Ball will be bidding on more than $100,000 in silent- and live-auction material.

Van Airsdale says the black-tie gala is a “beautiful event” with hors d’ouvres, drinks, a silent auction, a seated dinner, dancing to live music and a live auction.

The story of this year’s Heart Hero will be shown during the Open Your Heart Moment.The Hero is Zayden Wright, a 6-year-old who has had three open-heart surgeries. There will be a video about Zayden’s ordeal and challenges, and he will
be in attendance.

Van Airsdale says that heart defects are the No. 1 defect in babies born in the U.S. Also, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans. “Most people think it’s cancer or something like that, but it’s really heart disease,” Van Airsdale says.

In fact, according to statistics provided by the American Heart  Association CSRA:
• Heart disease is the leading cause of death  in Georgia and South Carolina.
• One out of five women have a form of heart disease.
• Thirty-five thousand babies are born each year with  a congenital heart defect.
• Some one dies from heart disease every 36 seconds.
• Some one suffers a stroke every 45 seconds.

The Heart Ball is one of several fundraisers the American Heart Association of the CSRA holds throughout the year. There also is the Heart Walk and the Heart Board musical play in Aiken.

The 2015-16 CSRA Heart Ball Executive leadership team includes: 

•    Ben Casella, president,  Casella Eye Center

•    Bonnie Cox, partner, Cherry Bereat

•    Dr. John Frederick, partner, vascular surgeon, Augusta Vascular Center,

•    Rich Henderson, president, Jani-King

•    Kevin Holleran, CEO, E-Z-Go

•    Lou Imbrogno, CEO,  Center for Primary Care

•    Garnett Johnson, president,  Augusta Office Solutions

•    Matt Johnson, principal sales  representative, BSCI

•    Frank Lindley, CFO, Gold Cross Emergency Medical Services

•    Paul Myers, business development manager, MAU Workforce Solutions

•    Belita Smith, Cerner alignment executive, Jaguar Collaborative

•    Clay Trover, enterprise supply chain manager, Georgia Regents University

•    Shawn Vincent (Heart Ball chairman),  interim COO of GR Health

•    Adam Willis, president, F&W Transportation

•    Kirby Yawn, CFO Allgood  Professional Services

For more information on the American Heart Association or to make a direct, tax-deductible donation, go to

Dustin Turner is an Aiken writer and editor. He and his wife, Jamie, have one daughter.


This article appears in the April 2016 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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