Dr. Carl Backer, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at UK Children’s Hospital, presents one of a hundred sports balls to UNITE Youth Programs manager Carl Varney. Also representing UNITE were, from left, Executive Assistant Lynnell Fields, Region 3 Coalition Coordinator Alyson Salyer, and Rural Health Opioid Program Director JoAnn Vanzant. Next to Dr. Backer are, from left, American Heart Association Executive Director Andrea Ooten, AHA Community Impact Director Mike Turner, Kentucky Children’s Hospital Joint Pediatric Heart Care Program Coordinator Tanya Edwards, and Kentucky Children’s Hospital Director of the Pediatric Heart Care Program Morgan Dezarn.

LEXINGTON – More than 100 sports balls of various types will be delivered to children throughout southern and eastern Kentucky this school year thanks to the American Heart Association (AHA) and its 2021 Heart Ball sponsors – Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

The balls were ceremoniously presented by Dr. Carl Backer, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at UK Children’s Hospital, to Carl Varney, youth program manager at Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education), on September 13 at the UK Kentucky Children’s Hospital’s campus.

AHA collected the balls from attendees at the Central Kentucky Heart Ball in June, for distribution to children living in the 54-county Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) area. All 32 counties served by UNITE are part of SOAR.

The Heart Ball, which was presented by White Greer & Maggard Orthodontics and chaired by Jack and Carol Russell of Russell Capital Management, is an annual gala to raise funds and awareness for the American Heart Association’s mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. The Bring a Ball to the Ball initiative was created to foster a lifelong love of physical activity in children.

Elementary schools, primarily those served by the UNITE Service Corps initiative, will be receiving the balls during the 2021-22 school year. Kentucky AmeriCorps members serving with UNITE Service Corps provide math tutoring and drug prevention education at 58 schools in 18 counties.

“Keeping kids physically active is an essential part of keeping them healthy,” said Andrea Ooten, executive director of the Central Kentucky American Heart Association. “Our mission is to help kids develop a healthy lifestyle from a young age so they can live longer, stronger lives.”

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA.