Inspiring message goes out during 2018 Tarrant County Go Red for Women luncheon

Photo by Nealie Sanchez.

Champagne bottles popped, women cheered and red rings flashed bright as donations for Go Red for Women poured in at the 2018 Tarrant County Go Red for Women luncheon took place Thursday, March 1, at the Omni Fort Worth.

Go Red For Women is the American Heart Association’s movement that aims to band women together to wipe out heart disease. Tarrant County’s Go Red For Women is a year-long campaign that aims to raise awareness and educate women about their risks of the disease.

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The cornerstone of the health movement is the Go Red For Women luncheon, which focuses on preventing heart disease and stroke by not only promoting healthy lifestyles, but raising money to support awareness, education and research of heart health in women.

Macy’s Vice President Store Manager Sheila Barnes said that since 2004, the company has helped raise more than $65 million to support the fight against heart disease in women. More information about their work in this fight can be found at

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Go Red for Women is nationally sponsored by Macy’s and CVS Health and locally sponsored by Texas Health Resources, which offered complementary health screenings before the event.

“We consider it our responsibility and privilege to educate the community about heart disease and stroke,” Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan said.

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Traffic anchor and reporter for CBS 11 News This Morning Madison Sawyer served as the emcee for the luncheon, which she said she hoped would help “break the silence of the impact heart disease is having on our lives.”

According to the American Heart Association, every 80 seconds a woman dies of heart disease, but 80 percent of those deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes.

“The Go Red for Women movement is about showing up, standing up and taking control of your heart health,” AHA Executive Director Cami Thompson said.

According to Visit Fort Worth the Tarrant County Go Red For Women luncheon draws in more than 600 business executives, medical professionals and community leaders every year, while featuring health screenings, educational breakout sessions and a silent auction, in addition to a heart-healthy lunch and personal testimonies.

Sheila Reynolds is one woman with such testimony.

Reynolds has attended the Tarrant County Go Red for Women luncheon before, but this was her first time attending as someone who lives with heart disease herself. She said the message of the movement is a lifesaver — literally — and she is a living, breathing example of that.

“When I was here before, I was here to honor my parents,” Reynolds said. “Now I’m here because the American Heart Association was there for me.”

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially register in and run the Boston Marathon, served as keynote for the heart-healthy event.

“Forty-five percent of all cases of heart disease can be prevented by a simple walk every day,” Switzer said. “My objective is to give you the opportunity to save your own life.”

When Switzer finished the Boston Marathon 1967 she says people asked her, “Are you a suffragette? Are you a crusader?” But, she says, “I just wanted to run.”

At the time, even her closest friend and trainer couldn’t see how a woman could run the marathon — it just wasn’t done. But Switzer trained and trained and not only did she enter, she finished the race.

She says people used to think women couldn’t hold a candle to men in sports because men have speed, power and strength. But, she says, women have endurance, stamina and balance.

“By the time I finished the race I wanted to do two things,” Switzer said. “Become a better athlete and create more opportunities for women [in sports].”

Switzer was instrumental in getting women into the olympics, having worked with Avon to hold races for women, complete studies and collect health data to present to the international olympic committee. The work she and Avon did ultimately led to the first women’s Olympic marathon taking place in 1984.

“That was our first physical acceptance,” she said. “Women are going to be creating sports we couldn’t even imagine in the Olympics right now.”

Since her front-page making race in 1967, Switzer hasn’t stopped running or acting as a champion for women in sports. Recently she has created the 261 Fearless non-profit after finding out that her Boston Marathon bib — 261 — has become a symbol of fearlessness for women and men across the nation.

“Everybody in the world relates to being told they can’t do it, or they aren’t good enough,” she said. “Life will always give you something out of left field … pay attention to it. It can be profoundly life changing.”

“Almost all of us can be pioneers and game changers by taking an injustice and creating an opportunity with it,” Switzer said.