That's me with Amie Schumacher
Friday was a great day. After quite a bit of last-minute work to help the Chicago Go Red team design signage, a slide template and some printed material for their annual event, as well as a push to improve our fundraising efforts* on their behalf, the big day finally arrived.
Vice President of Global Human Resources Tinna Hall joined me on the long ride to downtown Chicago from our company headquarters in Elgin and, when we walked into the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, we were surrounded by Affinity Express designs.
As we got closer to the designated rooms, red dresses were everywhere! Women of all ages, races and sizes were decked out and looking absolutely gorgeous. To add to the festive mood, those who donated their personal funds to the cause sported white and gold boas.
How can you not smile when you're dressed all in red topped off with feathers?
Tinna Hall with Jodi Beyhl
We ran into my Go Red contacts and said hello, as many of us had not met in person, despite working together for several months. It was clear from the beginning that everything was well organized and would run smoothly. Senior Director Andrea Rich, Director of Corporate Development Amie Schumacher and Red For Women Specialist Jodi Beyhl were all cool as cucumbers.
The panel on women and heart disease
Over a heart-healthy breakfast of coffee or tea and oatmeal, we listened to a panel of cardiologists, physicians and nutritionists talk about women and heart disease. They debunked some myths and provided practical advice on changes we could all make to feel better and live longer. I wasn't surprised to hear that stress plays a major role in heart disease but I was blown away when I heard that cereal is not a very good breakfast (most have too much sugar and don't provide sustained energy through the morning; even "healthy ones" can be high in salt). We also learned to shop the perimeter of the supermarket to find the best food options and that any packaged foods should have no more than five ingredients with none of the first three being a form of sugar.
That's the presentation
There was time after this session to view all of the donations to the "pursonality auction." In advance, we were asked to provide a pocketbook filled with items that we liked or expressed our personality. I went with a gold tote bag filled with my favorite champagne, a bottle of good red wine, a gift card and some decadent chocolate. There was also a "picnic in the park" collection, one that was all about pizza (from sponsor Home Run Inn) and another with a certificate for a year's supply of ice cream. I wish I could have taken them all home!
My "pursonality" donation
In addition to the pocketbooks, there were several health exhibits with free testing, booths to get makeup touch-ups, healthy snacks from sponsors and even a smoothie station. Fortunately, one of the sponsors handed out large tote bags, because we were loaded down with give-aways like CPR kits, promotional items and coupons (my kids tore into these as soon as I got home!).
By this time, we were joined by President of Advertising Services David McTarnaghan and connected with executives from our client, Sun-Times Media. Tinna and I also met members of the health panel as we all circulated in the large room. Time flew and, the next thing we knew, the signal was given to move to another room for lunch.
David McTarnaghan with clients from the Sun-Times
In the grand ballroom, Affinity Express had a great table with a view of the dais. ABC News morning anchor Judy Tsu served as mistress of ceremonies. The keynote speaker, Diane C. Swonk, senior managing director and chief economist for Mesirow Financial, told us about her own experience with heart disease. What struck me is that the first and second time she experienced symptoms, she refused immediate medical care and waited until she took care of her job and her children first. Sounds like what many women I know would have done, including me! The good news is that she is still here to talk about it. But it's clear that we have to get over being caretakers to the world, listen to our bodies and accept help when we need it!
Kari Feggestad and David McTarnaghan at the Affinity Express table
The heart-healthy theme continued with a low-fat, salt-free lunch that featured sponsors like Mrs. Dash and Edy's ice cream (no butter or salt on the table). National sponsor Macy's provided the favor—a $10 gift card for each guest and we got a book of recipes to try.
That's my name up there!
My favorite part of the meal was all the personal detail from survivors and the reasons why individuals committed to Go Red. I lost count of how many touching stories we heard but I will never forget one young woman who spoke at the end of the program. She battled heart disease since the age of six months and finally needed a heart transplant in her late teens. Today, she is fine and does the Hustle Up the Hancock every year (thousands of people climb to the top of John Hancock Center to raise funds for lung disease research, advocacy and education). The last time around, when she made it to the top of the tower, the parents of her heart donor were waiting with stethoscopes so they could hear how their daughter's heart lived on.
At the industry conferences and meetings I typically attend, people are generally professional and polite. In contrast, at the Go Red event everyone was warm and open, and thrilled to be at the event. Whether they were survivors of heart disease or had family members affected, the belief in the need for awareness, education and research united them. And I got the distinct feeling that, whatever goal this large group of amazing women wants to achieve, they will make it happen!
More Go Red for Women Signage created by Affinity Express
Before we left, I got a chance to say hello to Senior Vice President of Advertising & Marketing for Sun-Times Media Barb Swanson, the current chairperson, who thanked us for all the design support Affinity Express provided. To Kim Feil, chief marketing officer of Walgreen's and the incoming chairperson, I committed the continued support of Affinity Express. That means I can look forward attending this empowering event again next year and building my collection of boas!
A special thank-you to Mel Fernandez, senior designer for marketing at Affinity Express. He single-handedly completed about 40 designs for Go Red in less than five business days. At the same time, he handled a fairly demanding amount of regular marketing projects from me. As Go Red's Jodi Beyhl said, "Mel is the best!"
That's me with some of the signs we created!
* To help us support this cause, please click here. I'd very much appreciate any help you or your friends can provide!