Community Events Fuel Mission

Powerful digital experiences united survivors, supporters and sponsors affected by heart disease and stroke. Their determination to support the AHA in adapting community event plans, along with a renewed focus to help supporters understand their impact, raised $296 million to drive the AHA’s mission delivery through pioneering research and community-based health programs that improve the well-being and quality of life for our neighbors.

Our Heart Challenge experiences, including Heart Walk and CycleNation events, kept people moving and connected through physical health and mental well-being while celebrating and honoring those affected by heart disease and stroke.

Heart Walk was named the No. 1 peer-to-peer fundraising event in the country for 2020. Heart Walk supporters ranging from corporate teams to families connected over the miles to walk for survivors and thrivers affected by heart disease and stroke, raising $96 million. Community-based digital experiences were complemented by national livestream events, including the One Heartbeat series, national kickoff rallies, exclusive roundtables and the Heart of Giving Tuesday National Survivor Rally. These new events helped recharge, inspire and connect supporters while sharing messages of gratitude and health.

Whether on roads or stationary bikes, CycleNation events encouraged supporters to cycle towards better brain and heart health. More than $3 million was raised including $1.7 million from the One CycleNation event hosted on World Stroke Day.

Cities came together for One CycleNation with a goal of logging one million miles and raising $1 million to prevent stroke, a leading cause of disability. By the end of the day, supporters had raised $1.7 million. Two notable stroke survivors — four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson and actor Timothy Omundson, best known for his portrayal of a stroke survivor on “This Is Us” — were part of the national livestream experience hosted by journalist Kristen Aguirre. All three had strokes before age 50 and attributed their recovery, in part, to a focus on physical fitness. “Recovery from stroke is a marathon and not a sprint. Honor the milestones as you hit them,” Omundson said.

Heart Ball campaigns used digital engagement to invite supporters and heart champions to recognize and celebrate their support of our mission in new ways. Heart Ball campaigns continued to benefit from the support of some of the AHA’s most generous individual donors including Circle of Red and Cor Vitae Society members. Together with Heart Ball supporters and sponsors they raised $57 million, the second-largest revenue source within our community campaign portfolio. In total, more than 100 Heart Ball celebrations were held across the country, with many campaigns achieving their best fundraising year ever, proving support of the AHA mission extends well beyond the ballroom.

Over 18 years, Go Red for Women has united millions of women in a shared purpose to understand their unique risk for heart disease and take action for their health. Through signature luncheons — reimagined as digital celebrations — we continued to create an exclusive opportunity for connection and community among women. Across more than 100 communities, Go Red for Women campaigns raised $55 million. Go Red also received a generous boost from longtime supporter CVS Health, which committed an unprecedented $25 million to support the movement for the next five years.

Within Heart Ball and Go Red campaigns, we celebrated new changemakers for raising mission-critical funds while rallying their network of supporters across 150 communities to do the same. Go Red’s Woman of Impact and Heart Ball Leaders for Life campaigns raised more than $3 million and spotlighted more than 500 dedicated leaders across the country who helped these new campaigns take flight.

Eric Flett
Eric Flett

With nearly $62,000 raised, Eric Flett’s Leaders for Life campaign supporting San Francisco’s Bay Area Heart Ball was the top individual fundraising campaign during the inaugural year of Woman of Impact and Leaders for Life campaigns. “I know I want to make a difference and give back,” he said. “Helping people is what’s important to me.”

A few additional highlights:

  • The annual National Wear Red and Give Day in February reminded supporters that losing even one woman from heart disease is too many. Together, more than $3.5 million was raised for the mission, an increase of 48% from the previous year.
  • The 2021 Class of Real Women shined the spotlight on 20 Heart Warriors who shared their stories of inspiration and survival over heart disease and stroke.
  • The Go Red for Women National Leadership Council continued their efforts to bring greater awareness and health impact to millions of women inside companies and in communities across the country.
  • National experiences including September’s Go Red State of Women’s Health and December’s Circle of Red Holiday Experience, which featured Arianna Huffington and Zac Posen sharing the importance of self-care, provided connection and community.
JT Laybourne
JT Laybourne

As digital experiences continued to pave the way for our event-based fundraising, connection across social communities grew to deliver $5 million in revenue, our best year yet. This came from new platforms and supporters including gamers, philanthropically minded livestreamers, personal Facebook fundraisers and social influencers who shared their stories and encouraged their communities to give generously to the AHA. TikTok influencer, congenital heart disease survivor and self-proclaimed Heart Warrior JT Laybourne shared his inspirational story of living with heart disease and helped inspire donations over two unique livestreams totaling $750,000 in support.

With a history of more than 40 years in America’s schools, we help educators promote lifelong habits for their students’ physical health and mental well-being while students learn the importance of helping others through our Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge programs.

This past school year, more than 7 million students came together to raise $45 million. Julia, a third-grader at Explorer Elementary School in Williamston, Michigan, raised more than $16,000, making her the top fundraising student in the country. Participating schools also received grants for physical activity equipment and wellness initiatives.

Finn’s Mission, inspired by congenital heart defect survivor and national Heart Hero Finn Blumenthal, continued to help families learn about heart and brain health. From the warning signs of stroke to hands-only CPR, 34,000 families are taking these important lessons to heart. Finn’s mother, Kelly Blumenthal says, “It’s encouraging to see the impact Finn’s story is having on families.”


“I was born with congestive heart failure and a hole in my heart from a ventricular septal defect. Thank you for helping kids like me.” – Jaeden, age 12

National, regional and local retailers inspired shoppers to support longer, healthier lives through point-of-sale donations as part of our Life Is Why consumer campaigns. More than 200 retail companies including Advance Auto Parts, AT&T, Big Lots!, Orangetheory Fitness and Pilot raised nearly $13 million.

Shoppers at more than 1,400 Big Lots! stores across the country supported “Go BIG for Go Red for Women” from February 1-17 during a Life Is Why campaign to support women’s heart health. Shoppers who donated received a Go Red for Women red dress pin and were invited to write a note of support on heart-shaped cards. Nearly 900,000 shoppers participated in the campaign and generated $1.2 million in donations.

Monthly campaigns and appeals invited donors to give throughout the year. Enhanced by generous matches these efforts raised a collective $51 million. Mission supporters were also invited to share their stories within the Impact Map. The visual and interactive display spotlights more than 3,500 survivors, grantees and heart heroes who are helping families and communities thrive.

Valerie and Lee Shapiro
Valerie and Lee Shapiro

Cardiovascular disease continues to be a woman’s greatest health threat. Longtime AHA volunteers and champions Valerie and Lee Shapiro helped honor moms everywhere by matching up to $1 million raised on The Shapiros each lost their mothers to cardiovascular disease. Their matching gift challenge was intended to help improve women’s health and protect the hearts of moms. Supporters shared stories of their moms using the hashtag #MyHeroMyMom.

Targeted campaigns garnered support from hospitals and health care systems to help amplify community messages. “It’s Up to You” shared science-based information on COVID-19 vaccinations. “Don’t Die of Doubt” emphasized that dialing 911 when facing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke is still the safest call. And “Doctor, It’s Been Too Long” encouraged making and keeping medical appointments to take care of health and well-being. In total, nearly $8 million was generated as communities prioritized their health.