2/7/2014 11:56 AM
By Ryan Leist
My first involvement with the Adult Congenital Heart Association was last May at the Congenital Heart Walk in Indianapolis. I signed up to be a volunteer to check out what the organization was like and it turned out to be a life-changing experience.
Growing up in a small town, I never encountered anyone with heart defects, so going to an event to meet so many kids and adults was overwhelming. After speaking with others, I felt so lucky to live a relatively normal life with CHD thus far and I wanted to do my part to help raise awareness and funds for ACHA.
I was on the ACHA website and noticed they had a promotional night with the Philadelphia Phillies in the past and thought we could do the same thing with the Indiana Pacers. I contacted ACHA first and got a green light to try to put together an event. I went on the Pacers community relations page and found a contact. I explained to them about the organization, got facts from ACHA, and let the Pacers know what ACHA meant to me.
It was very important that I started months before the season started so I could reserve a game. They had only so many “family night” games, which were weekend games with family packs including shirts, food, and other promotional items. Each ticket sold for the organization would get a $5 donation from the Pacers. The target price ACHA gave me was in the $20 range so a family of four could go for less than $100. Also, we could have one person on the court for the halftime presentation for each 50 tickets we sold and had 250 tickets available for the event.
Once the game was set, January 18 versus the Los Angeles Clippers, the rest was easy. I got a small team to assist with the logistics. We wrote a short script for the halftime presentation combining CHD facts and personalizing it for the Indianapolis area. The Pacers created the flyer for the game and distributing it was easy with the help of the existing ACHA community from the Congenital Heart Walk. I forwarded it to the other committee members as well as the sponsor for the previous walk, local hospitals and community organizations such as the YMCA. Due to stadium licensing rights, we were limited on obtaining a corporate sponsorship for the event. It is important to ask up front about what advertising can be done at the stadium.
Sarah Brown, who organizes the Congenital Heart Walk in Indianapolis, helped get the director of adult congenital heart disease from Indiana University Health to be the healthcare sponsor for the Pacers. It turns out Dr. W. Aaron Kay, who specializes in pediatric and adult congenital heart defects there, was from my hometown of Huntington, Indiana. We were able to get know each very easily—he graduated high school with my brother and we knew many of the same people. Needless to say, I now have a new cardiologist for many years to come.
We sold over the available ticket amount, totaling 275 for the game. The event organizers, a few survivors, and Dr. Kay were able to get on the court and be recognized on the jumbo screen at halftime. It was a surreal experience to be on center court so close to the Pacers! This was a great evening bringing the CHD community together while raising funds for ACHA and awareness for both ACHA and the Indianapolis Congenital Heart Walk.
The game was great, with the Pacers winning and Paul George having a 360 dunk to seal the victory. Because of the support we received (selling over 200 tickets), we qualified for an autographed Paul George jersey that we will raffle at the next Indianapolis Congenital Heart Walk! We could not have had such a successful event without all of the support in the Indianapolis community. Hopefully by sharing our experiences, we can get more events going in cities across the nation. Sarah and I will start looking into getting a similar night with the Indiana Fever, the WNBA team in Indianapolis. If you have questions or need help getting your event started, you can contact ACHA to get in touch with me. Good luck!
Ryan Leist was born in 1984 with a ventricular septal defect and interrupted aortic arch; he has had three heart surgeries (including his first open heart surgery at 8 days old). He has a B.S. in Accounting and Masters in Business Administration from Indiana University at Fort Wayne. Ryan is a lifelong learner, sports fan, and is working on living a more healthy and active lifestyle.
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