Volunteer Spotlight

July- Eric Rothenberg

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American Heart Association volunteer Eric Rothenberg of Mercer Island is the recipient of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Advocacy Award, one of the top honors given to volunteers in the Western States Affiliate, which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The award was presented at the AHA’s annual volunteer awards dinner in Los Angeles on June 6, 2016.

Rothenberg, who serves as chair of the AHA’s Washington State Advocacy Committee, was honored for exceptional grassroots advocacy achievement in support of a historic increase in funding for the Washington State Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Program. His leadership helped to secure an annual expenditure on bicycle/pedestrian projects of $10.25 million. Rothenberg has been a volunteer for the AHA’s Puget Sound Division for many years and was also instrumental in lobbying for required CPR instruction in high schools, which became Washington state law in 2014. “I’m honored and humbled to receive this award from the AHA, and thrilled to represent our great group of volunteers and the wonderful team at the AHA in Washington,” he said.

In 2009 Rothenberg, a healthy and active father of two, survived sudden cardiac arrest while playing tennis at a local club. He credits quick action from bystanders for saving his life.  “Fortunately the club has two AEDs (automated external defibrillators) and there were a few doctors playing on adjacent courts. They began CPR within about 30 seconds of me going down and a friend ran and got an AED. They shocked me twice and I was revived before the medics arrived,” he recalls. “Without CPR and that AED, the outcome would have been very different.”

June-Marlo Holloway

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Through my years as a paramedic I can recall many helpless looks on families faces as their loved ones collapsed in front of them and they just panicked. Empowering people was the reason I started teaching CPR. Twenty-one years later I’m still an American Heart Association CPR Instructor, and I don’t know where the time as gone. Now, as a certified Holistic Health Coach I teach preventative health and volunteer giving work place wellness presentations. One of my hobbies is writing children’s books and I hope to get published later this year. The other hobby is teaching CPR in Spanish to our Latin community members.

I volunteer because I believe it matters to people and I find that they are always so grateful. I volunteer for my grandmother who died from a stroke and my father who died from a heart attack. In a single moment, you can save a person’s life — with skills you can learn in a few hours.

May-Pallavi Bhandarkar 


I joined Medicine for my love towards people and the joy I get helping them out. It’s the same joy I get when I volunteer for American Heart Association. I started my journey in United States in the year 2011 and started volunteering for the American Heart Association in the year 2013 by giving a small talk on “Power to End stroke” at Des Moines Library. Only a few people turned up to listen to my talk, but I was so excited to explain to them “How we can prevent stroke and its disabilities?”. If a single person made a lifestyle change for the better after listening to me, I consider that a positive. This was just the first of many events conducted by AHA where I volunteered. I learn new things every time I do this, I make new friends and meet new and interesting people from different walks of life. I am extremely grateful to the staff of AHA for giving me this opportunity to volunteer at AHA and letting me make the smallest of difference in someone’s life.  For some people volunteering is a way of giving, but for the likes of us, it is a way of living. Thank you.

April-Claire Hughes


I was exposed to volunteering at an early age and I saw firsthand the impact volunteers could have, so when I learned many years ago that heart disease ran in my family I knew I wanted to be an advocate for this cause. Volunteering has been so rewarding, especially when you’re working with people who are so dedicated in bringing awareness and prevention of heart disease to the forefront. It’s been great working with the American Heart Association team on the collateral for An Evening with Heart Gala and I hope the evening is a huge success. I’m passionate about making a difference in my community, in spreading the word, in my case through design and encouraging people to live heart healthy lives.

March 2016-Alicia Blake


Since 2010 I have volunteered in several of the American Heart Association’s corporate and community health events. It has been incredible experiencing first-hand the impact they are making in the lives of so many who live in the Puget Sound region. As a health educator, I appreciate that they place a high value on the prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke by promoting a healthy lifestyle. I’ve supported initiatives like their Fit Friendly Worksite Wellness program, health fairs and the Heart Walk that teach people how to make smart choices that support good health.  Recently, I’ve been a Chef Instructor for the Kids Cook with Heart Program, sponsored by Group Health. This cooking and food education program is simply one of the best ways to get kids interested in their health. I am amazed how much the students enjoy learning about and trying new foods!  It is an incredible feeling knowing that you have helped a child get a head start on adopting healthy habits. The power of programs like Kids Cook with Heart is why I enjoy volunteering with the American Heart Association. I believe in the work they do and I know that my time is well spent, I know I am making a difference

February 2016- Alysse Bryson


Although I am not new to volunteer work, I am new to being a volunteer for an organization as a survivor.

In the summer of 2015, I was convinced I was having a series of panic attacks from too much stress at work. One trip to the ER, another call to 911, and a doctor appointment later over the course of a weeks’ time and it was still unknown what the real problem was. I was scheduled for a stress test three weeks out. During those three weeks I continued to have episodes of varying degrees of intensity. It didn’t occur to me at the time that any of them qualified as an emergency, so I didn’t contact my doctor. My blood pressure and cholesterol were both fine. On August 24th I went in to Swedish Cardiac & Vascular for a stress test and an hour later found myself being admitted for surgery. My doctor told me my EKG’s were some of the worst he’d seen in awhile. I recall making a joke, like “don’t you do this for a living?” and recognizing the look on his face meant he was being serious.

As someone who uses humor as a defense mechanism, I knew I needed to stop joking around because it was time to be serious too. Saying goodbye pre-surgery to my parents, my son, and two of my closest friends was quite possibly the worst experience of my life. It’s the not knowing what is about to happen that can truly put the fear of God into you. All I could keep thinking was “How did this happen?”, “I’m too young.”, “This can’t be happening to me!”, “Why is this happening to me?”, “What if I die?” What they found out was that my LAD (left anterior descending) artery was over 80% blocked. I had a stent put in and spent a long, hard night in the hospital.

That same week my 19 year old son Jakob was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and had to have an emergency MRI to study an abscess in his stomach. He ended up having a major surgery two months later and I’m happy to report today he is doing much better. We both are. But needless to say, a week like that changes you. It changes how you look at and how you value life. And it for sure changes how you want to spend your time.

I am very passionate about sharing my story and helping in any way I can at the American Heart Association. I think I tell at least one person per day that heart disease kills 1 out of 3 women. I even told the lady at QFC this morning that was bagging my groceries. She said she had no idea. Looking back now, there were so many signs I failed to see. If I can help prevent one woman from going through what I did, I will consider that a success. In the meantime, it is an honor and privilege to serve at the AHA. I am currently a 2016 Go Red Ambassador and I am happy to come to the local AHA office and help with any project that I can be it large or small.

December 2015-Victor Arcega


I have been volunteering for the AHA since this May.  I grew up in the Seattle area before heading to the University of Southern California (Fight on, Trojans!) for undergrad and grad school, studying biomedical engineering.  I was fascinated with cardiac devices (pacemakers, ICDs,, EKGs, etc), and also because I essentially grew up hanging around my dad’s cardiology practice.  I decided to pursue a career in medicine, finishing at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.  I’m currently in the process of applying to residency.

During my experiences in the Philippines, I became painfully aware of the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and the efforts to prevent and manage them, the importance of pre-hospital care and the EMS system, and the BLS/ACLS and other guidelines put forth by the AHA.  One of the most rewarding experiences during my time as a medical student was patient education, namely helping patients understand the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases, prevention, and managing their condition.

I wanted to continue to involve myself in educating people in these topics.  Educating and helping patients understand cardiovascular disease in a simple, understandable manner improves patient compliance and encourages dialogue with their doctors, and ultimately improves their cardiovascular health.  I have had opportunities helping out with several health fairs as well as teaching hands free CPR during CPR week and other AHA sponsored events.

Just as Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  I strive to continue to educate people about cardiovascular health and the steps they can take to lead healthier lives.

 November 2015-Pauli Lavochin


My name is Pauli Lavochin and I am a volunteer for AHA. I have chosen to become a volunteer as I was born with a congenital heart defect and supporting this organization was important for the research they provide. The AHA has also intercepted my life at multiple points. I remember participating every year in grade school for Jump Rope for Heart, doing the Heart Walk with Sellen Construction and now getting my certifications as a nursing student through AHA.

Working with the Logistics Committee for the Heart Walk this past summer help me to appreciate how much effort goes into this event and to raise the necessary funds. The best part was speaking with donors and how enthusiastic they were in helping our cause and the community. It was an honor to be part of such a great group to help this become a successful event.

  September 2015-Xanne Sarka


Aloha! My name is Xanne Sarka and I have had the privilege to serve as a summer intern for the American Heart Association.  I’ve enjoyed my experience so much, I have arranged to keep interning until I graduate in December.

Originally from Hawaii, I enjoy being active in many outdoor sports, especially water activities. Although, I must say that soccer is my main passion!  I previously received a bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Communication then stayed at home to raise two wonderful children.  I have returned to school two years ago and am currently pursuing a degree in Event Marketing.  The wonderful thing about interning for the American Heart Association is that I get to put both of my degrees to use!

Be on the lookout for some new training modules that AHA volunteer Namya Malik and I are currently working on. These modules will help you to feel better equipped to represent the AHA at health and wellness fairs.  Most recently, I have been assigned to serve within the division of Multicultural Initiatives.  I am very excited to be working in this capacity, among diverse communities, sharing important heart and stroke information that could save a loved one’s life.

 August 2015-Kim Akimoto

Kim Akimoto at Union Bank_07112014

I have been the Team Captain for The Di-Hearts at Pacific Medical Centers since 2013.  My inspiration to fundraise for the American Heart Association is a personal one.  My father had a stroke in July of 2013 after a fall.  Then in April of 2014 he was hospitalized to treat an infection.  During his hospitalization, he suffered a heart attack.  I fundraise and participate in the Annual Heart and Stroke Walk at the Seattle Center each October because I hope that money raised for this walk will help fund research to find a cure for heart disease. Join Kim, by signing up for the Heart Walk.  http://pugetsoundheartwalk.kintera.org

July 2015-Turner Prewitt

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I, Turner Prewitt was given the “gift of life, “a new heart on August 3, 2008 at the University of Washington Medical Center. I volunteer as a living legacy in honor of Joseph Galinat, my donor, and his family. I believe I am here for a reason, a purpose, and it feels good to share my knowledge and experience with those who are going through similar situations. One way to give back is by being a volunteer with the American Heart Association. I started by doing the Heart walk as a survivor in 2009 thru 2011 with UWMC team transplant. In 2012 through my work at GM NAMEPLATE and our partnership with

Boeing as a key supplier of theirs, I was given the opportunity by Kent Fisher, an AHA board member to start a heart walk team  at GMN. We have been participating and fundraising since then with the fantastic help and encouragement of Our mentors at AHA. We started small with 30 walkers and $3644 in fundraising in 2012. Last year 2014 We had 122 walkers and raised $10,000. My picture shows WHY I CARE. My 2 daughters, a son-in-law and my 2 grandchildren walked with me.It does not get much better than that,  as well as sharing stories with many other families of AHA heart walkers and supporters. I have been blessed to also be an advocate the last two years in Olympia with AHA as a lobbyist.This past year we got a law passed to make it mandatory to test newborn infants for heart defects with a simple 45 second test called pulse oximetry. I continue to send emails to our legislators with the help of the AHA volunteer voice. See www.heart.org/WSAvolunteers to get involved in the continuing efforts  to make a difference. I am still continuing to find new volunteer opportunities with AHA, like having our company attend the Multicultural Initiatives breakfast that addressed how businesses can improve our culture for healthy lives. Be well, One heartbeat at a time.

June 2015: Jesus Hernandez-Balbas



We asked Jesus why he volunteered and this was his response:

I believe I am helping to build a better society if I take part of my time in helping good causes. I believe no matter how big or small the task if the outcome helps or has a positive impact in the society.  I want to be there adding my help. I really believe good acts lead to a good change and way of thinking of people. That is what we need to have for the best society for all us.

I really like being part of AHA volunteer team. They are a team committed, dedicated and passionate about the way their work has a positive impact in society, beside they create a really good work environment. AHA office staff are really friendly, willing to explain you about their work, willing to teach you and more important they want you to feel like part of a family.

 May 2015: Maria Parra-Calderon

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I have been volunteering at the AHA for almost 2 years and I have loved every part of it. I have had the opportunity to assist to health fairs, radio shows -and soon cooking classes- where I have talked about my biggest passion, nutrition. I have taught parents and children about healthy ways to keep their hearts healthy and happy providing low-sodium and low sugar diet resources. It has been amazing to be able to share my knowledge through nutrition education. I am very grateful that the AHA association has given me the opportunity to serve my community doing what I love most! I am honored to be a part of this organization who works so hard to prevent heart disease and encourage a healthy life-style. I hope your hearts stay happy!

 April 2015: Shannon Summers


“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill

With a familial history of stroke and congestive heart failure, contributing to the AHA’s work and mission of building healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke through volunteerism, was an easy choice for me. Volunteering as a My Heart. My Life. Committee member allows me to not only weave my passion for nutrition, health promotion and physical activity into my daily life—but it also allows me to champion environments and activities that support a healthy lifestyle, good nutrition and regular physical activity across the Puget Sound. As the foremost nonprofit organization promoting heart care and stroke awareness, I feel fortunate to be a part of an organization that prioritizes individual and community health needs throughout the year. My favorite part of volunteering with the AHA are the activities surrounding National Walking Day. Every year on the first Wednesday in April, I lace up my tennis shoes and get ready to walk! I also enjoy reaching out to the community through food and nutrition cooking demos. Demos provide the perfect way to couple healthy eating with nutrition education! Giving back and helping others has always been close to my heart. Giving back to my local community on behalf of the AHA, my family and a cause I feel passionate about is priceless.

March 2015-Emily Stetson


I volunteer for AHA because one day I hope to be a cardiologist that will be able to teach my patients healthy lifestyle choices and habits and that will keep their heart strong. Even though I’m a student at UW, volunteering with AHA has given me so taught me so much (that I could not have learned in a class room ) about the field of preventive health and how important it is. My favorite part so far has been organizing Heart Chase. It was such a fun experience that I hope continues to happen each year.

February 2015-Brandi Aubrey


Brandi was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect when she was 2 years old. Over the years, her heart condition became much worse. She underwent open heart surgery at the age of 31 to replace a failing aortic valve as well as her ascending aorta due to an aortic aneurysm. Since then, she has made an amazing progress, and for the first time in her life, she is even able to run! This last year had a few setbacks though. Christmas Eve 2013, Brandi had a stroke, and just a few weeks later, she was preforming CPR on her father when he collapsed at home after a virus attacked his heart. They spurred each other on in their recoveries, and last year they walked together at the Heart & Stroke Walk. Their family was joined by the family Brandi’s best friend & fellow Go Red Ambassador, Cesily Crowser. They walked in memory of Cesily, who unexpectedly passed away from an aortic dissection last February, as well as the 4 family members that Brandi’s family has lost over the years to heart disease & stroke.


Brandi began volunteering with us just months after surviving open heart surgery, 6 years ago. She has provided CPR training at community health fairs, organized various Go Red For Women events, and been a speaker at a dozens of functions including our Go Red For Women Luncheon. She has also appeared on local television, radio, newspapers, and billboards for AHA. Last year, her Heart & Stroke Walk team was ranked #4 in fundraising for all Community Teams. Brandi is the Chair of our Go Red For Women Passion Committee that oversees community outreach about women’s heart health.

January 2015-Wayne Lubin


In 1997, Wayne was working as a Sales manager driving between the airport to his office in downtown Seattle when suddenly he started feeling odd. His right side was becoming severely affected. He knew something did not feel ‘right’. Eventually Wayne made it to the hospital where he found out he was having a stroke. His wife met him at the hospital and he was in the ICU for 3 days and the hospital for a total of 21 days where he went through lots of rehab, including speech therapy and occupational therapy. After resting for a few months, Wayne was back in the swing of things and back to work.


Wayne started volunteering with Stroke survivors 6 months after his stroke and started volunteering with the AHA after that! Wayne has participated in events ranging from health fairs to Heart Walk, to envelope stuffing. Wayne is always there when we need him. I just want to give an extra special THANK YOU for all that he has done for us. You are a part of the AHA family.


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