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'Rhapsody in Red' raising awareness for women's heart health in Whitley County

By Kelley Sheiss



A month from now, on Friday, April 25th, the community will have the delightful opportunity of “dressing up and dining out.” It’s not very often in Whitley County that we as adults have the chance to break-out our finest dress, suit or jewels. Often, many of our great community events can be attended in jeans or business casual attire. Kelley Sheiss

So, it seems only fitting that when offering a unique event, the thought was to design an upscale, elegant evening that not only was a treat for those in attendance, but benefited local organizations as well. 

Rhapsody in Red is a dinner dance open to the community that will benefit Leadership Whitley County and (hopefully) increase the awareness of women’s heart health. Scheduled for Friday, April 25, 2008 at the Eagles Nest Event Center in Columbia City from 6 to 10:30 p.m., the event follows last year’s successful “Dancing with the Stars of Whitley County.”


This year, LWC wanted to offer an event where everyone could enjoy an evening of entertainment and dancing (featuring Blue River Express). In addition, the organization wanted to host an event that would also benefit another initiative. With heart disease being the #1 killer of women in the United States, it seemed like a great collaboration to tie-in the event with the focus on “red,” bringing attention to the importance of women’s heart health.


When I encourage people to attend this event, I do so because it is more than just another fundraiser. First, Leadership Whitley County is near and dear to my heart (no pun intended). I have seen firsthand the true value it has in our county. LWC has had 134 outstanding people go through the program who have contributed greatly in so many ways. From serving on boards, volunteering at local events, supporting new initiatives such as the Splash Pad, Ice Carving Festival, Taste of Whitley County and so much more, the Leadership Whitley County program is a strong foundation in the success of our community and its people. Of course, it takes funds to continue a successful program and events such as “Rhapsody” ensure this servant leadership program will thrive in years to come. 


Second, and most importantly for me, is the need and opportunity we have at this event to increase awareness of women’s heart disease and the importance of heart health. 


In late September of 2001, we were still reeling from 9/11 and I was eight months pregnant. It was a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon and I had just returned from a walk when the call came. 


My mom, at age 62, dropped dead of a massive heart attack. My dad tried to save her, but it was too late. The doctors said she died before she hit the kitchen floor. 


There is nothing that quite changes your life like the unexpected loss of a dear loved one. I am glad she did not suffer, however I am mad that she had to leave us too early. She would never see her newest grandson or enjoy the beach condo that her and my dad had dreamed of for years. I was angry for another reason. You see, my mom had only been to the doctor once since I was born (that’s one time in 32 years). She had a fear of doctors and suffered from “white coat hypertension,” so that one time she went to the doctor her high blood pressure was deemed as nerves. And, she smoked…a lot. And, she didn’t exercise…at all. And, when she started feeling poorly the morning that she died, she just chalked it up to a case of food poisoning or the flu. 


Six months later, my husband lost his aunt the exact same way. It was a double whammy. Since that time, I have had two female friends in their 30’s diagnosed with either high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Kudos to them for being proactive and seeking medical treatment.


The point of my community voice (and thank you, Jen, for providing the venue for this type of communication) is that we can make a difference and we need to work on our awareness of these issues every day. We only have one heart, one life and one chance to get it right. Look at your kids, grandkids, your friends and family members. It is so important to make the most of what we have while we are here. And chances are you are so important to so many people. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to take care of our heart and our health.


Rhapsody in Red is more than just a dinner dance. It is a celebration of life and an opportunity to share it with others. A portion of the monies generated from the evening will help offset the costs of a Women’s Wellness Profile that will be offered at the Heartbeat’s Festival on May 3. The profile, which will cost $30, includes the test, screening and follow-up report. This test is typically not available through a routine doctor’s visit and is often not covered by insurance. Usually, it runs in the hundreds of dollars.


So, dust off those dancing shoes, find a red tie, scarf or dress and get ready for a well-deserved evening out. Make the time and investment to attend Rhapsody in Red and make a difference.



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