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Barbara Poliwoda – The Regional Director of the American Heart Association

For our readers who do not know what the American Heart Association is about, tell us a little about the        organization.

The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Founded by six cardiologists in 1924, our organization now includes more than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters. We fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide critical tools and information to save and improve lives. Our nationwide organization includes 146 local offices and more than 3,400 employees. We moved our national headquarters from New York to Dallas in 1975 to be more centrally located. The American Stroke Association was created as a division in 1997 to bring together the organization’s stroke-related activities.

To improve the lives of all Americans, we provide public health education in a variety of ways. We are the nation’s leader in CPR education training. We help people understand the importance of healthy lifestyle choices. We provide science-based treatment guidelines to healthcare professionals to help them provide quality care to their patients. We educate lawmakers, policymakers, and the public as we advocate for changes to protect and improve the health of our communities.

We believe everyone deserves to live a healthier and longer life. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Stroke ranks fifth and is a leading cause of severe adult disability. Each year, these diseases kill more than 836,000 Americans. Some form of cardiovascular disease affects more than one in every three American adults. Many suffer terribly from disabilities caused by these diseases. We want everyone to understand the threat — and to know that cardiovascular diseases are largely preventable.

Tell us about the event in the Hamptons.

This year we are celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the Hamptons Heart Ball. It is widely recognized as a premier philanthropic and festive event in the Hamptons. The event attracts an elegant and diverse representation of the corporate, medical, and social communities from the Hamptons, Long Island, and New York City. We will all celebrate the community’s support of the life-saving mission of the American Heart Association! This year the Heart Ball will honor Audrey and Martin Gruss, of The Audrey and Martin Gruss Foundation and Dr. Apostolos K. Tassiopoulos, the department chair of vascular surgery at Stony Brook and the director of the Heart and Stroke Center at Southampton Hospital. The 2018 Hamptons Heart Ball will be chaired by you, Jean, and Dr. Chuck Simonton, the chief medical officer and the divisional vice president of Global Medical Affairs of Abbott. We are delighted to have Greg Kelly as our emcee! We will have a cocktail hour, exquisite dinner, fabulous dancing, entertainment, and live and silent auctions. The event’s proceeds will be used to support the lifesaving work of the American Heart Association.

Has the event raised a lot of money for the organization over the years?

Yes, since its inception, the Hamptons Heart Ball has raised over $10 million for the American Heart Association. The event has been attended by hundreds of business and community leaders. It receives millions of media impressions annually.

Tell me what the American Heart Association does with the money it receives.

Donations to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are crucial for the fight against heart disease and stroke in communities across the United States. Gifts fund innovative research into the prevention and treatment of these devastating diseases, the first and fifth causes of death in America. And support enables us to fight for stronger public health policies, improve the quality of healthcare nationwide, and provide lifesaving information to all Americans.

The American Heart Association funds more research than any U.S. organization except the federal government. In all, we spend nearly 80 cents of every dollar on research, education, and community outreach. Our funds go to research, public health education, professional education and training, community service, management, and general fundraising.

Where can someone go to receive support or obtain information?

Although we have a fantastic website that has an extensive amount of information, we are proud of a new program we launched in the fall of 2014 called the Patient Support Network. This was launched online to provide heart and stroke patients and caregivers an avenue to seek and give peer-to-peer support, while also accessing the vast trove of AHA/ASA tools and resources that provide practical information and knowledge.

About Barbara Poliwoda

Barbara Poliwoda has worked on numerous fund raising events for the organization, such as tennis tournaments, heart walks, 5 Ks, golf outings, and luncheons. When Barbara started the Hamptons Heart Ball 22 years ago, it brought in $22,000, and this year expects to raise close to $1 million. Barbara earned her bachelor’s degree in communication and business from SUNY Cortland. She resides in Southold, NY, with her husband, Ken, and her two sons. 

About Jean Shafiroff

Jean Shafiroff, a philanthropist, humanitarian, activist, and author of the book Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give, is a volunteer leader of several charitable causes. She serves on the boards of eight charities: The NY Women’s Foundation, NYC Mission Society, French Heritage Society, Couture Council, Jewish Board, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Honorary Board, Global Strays, and Southampton Bath and Tennis Club Charitable Foundation. In addition, Jean is an ambassador for the American Humane Society. Jean is married to Martin D. Shafiroff, an investments advisor and together they have two daughters. She and her family reside in Manhattan and Southampton.

American Heart Association:

Patient Support Network:

Hamptons Heart Ball info and tickets: or 516.962.0801