Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... Tami Sandefer

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What is the American Heart Association’s mission?
Building lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke, because it’s the No. 1 killer of people older than age 25 and the No. 1 birth defect. … We’re not just about fixing things after they’re broken. American Heart Association is very proactive. So many of the risks can be turned around by doing simple things. Stopping smoking isn’t simple, but also, changing your diet, and walking more can help.

What did you do before this job and what brought you to Springfield?
I had been in senior health care and fundraising for nonprofits. I’m from Indianapolis and Illinois. I moved here from Indianapolis. My daughter married a local boy and I now have two grandchildren. It’s a long drive to Indy, so I just moved here at the end of summer and found this job after I got here.

What drew you to the opportunity to work with the American Heart Association?
My father had cardiovascular disease. He had a quadruple bypass, developed congestive heart failure and actually passed away from a stroke. It’s not just a job; it’s personal.

What is your role as corporate events director?
I’m responsible for the Heart Ball and the Go Red for Women luncheon. There’s also a Heart Walk, but there’s a different director for that. I (orchestrate) both events. I’m responsible for volunteer recruitment, sponsorships, everything. Our volunteers do so much of that from the ground up. We have a committee for every portion of an event, so a lot of (my job) is getting the right people in place and motivating them.

How do those events support AHA’s mission?
It’s two-fold. First of all, it’s education, because through these events … we’re educating people about the risks and what they can do for themselves and their families. Secondly, it is to raise money … to support the mission and to support research. Of research funds in the last five years, $24 million has stayed in Missouri, and $132,000 went specifically to Missouri State University in Springfield, and some funding goes to education and educational materials.

When does planning start for each event, and where are you in the process for 2011?
We have a wrap-up meeting within two weeks after (each) event, and then, we start planning for the next event. It’s a 12-month process. The 2011 Heart Ball is Feb. 5 … Heart Walk is April 9 and Go Red for Women is Sept. 13. … Our primary focus now is the Heart Ball, because it’s the first event. We are finalizing sponsorships, selling tables (and) getting ready for Heart Month in February, when we’ve got Wear Red Day Feb. 4 and a casting call on Feb. 11. We’re building our committees and sponsorships for the Go Red luncheon.

How much money did the Heart Ball and Go Red luncheon raise in 2010, and what are your goals for 2011?
Last year, the Heart Ball raised $100,000, and Go Red for Women raised $115,000. For the Heart Ball, our presenting sponsor is St. John’s. Our cause sponsor for Go Red for Women is Central Trust Investment Co. and Empire Bank, and the Heart Walk sponsors are Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and CoxHealth. We’re actually going to exceed (amounts raised) in 2011. We can’t afford not to, because if we don’t raise money, there’s research that doesn’t get done, and that might be somebody who doesn’t get the cutting-edge technology that they need.

AHA events rely on about 200 volunteers. Who can help, and how much time is required?
People are amazed, because any talent you have, I can match it. If you like to decorate, you can be on the logistics committee. If you’re passionate about heart disease and it’s affected your family, you could be on the special appeals committee. We can find a fit for whatever your passion. Committee chairs meet for an hour a month, and the chairs have meetings with the subcommittees. … It would probably be a couple of hours a month until we get closer to the event. Then on the day of the events, we spend most of the day there getting ready. There’s a lot e-mail and telephone activity.
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