American Heart Association Celebrates Annual Heart Ball

Q&A with Mark O’Halla, CEO McLaren Medical Center – Macomb

The American Heart Association Annual Heart Ball is an evening that features gourmet dining, live music, and a wide range of top-flight auction items. Contributions raised from the event are used to further the American Heart Association’s mission of fighting heart disease and stroke. This year’s event is slated for Saturday, April 13 at the MGM Grand Detroit. Leading this year’s campaign as Heart Ball chair is Mark O’Halla, CEO of McLaren Medical Center – Macomb.

The Heart Ball is presented by McLaren Medical Center – Macomb and locally sponsored by AT&T; General Motors; Compuware Corp.; ITC Holdings Corp; Symantec; Information Services Group; Hewlett-Packard Co; Magna International Inc.; ADP Dealer Services; Emerald City Designs; Apriso Corp.; Beaumont Health System; Econ Global Services; St. John Providence Health System; Morley Companies Inc.; Henry Ford Health System; BorgWarner; Ferndale Electric Co.; Quicken Loans Inc., and Marketing Associates.

The cost per ticket is $1,000. For sponsorship opportunities or additional information, contact Shelley Rusinek at 248-936-5807 or email at

Q: Tell us about the importance of the Heart Ball and its significance to the American Heart Association.

Mark O’Halla: The Heart Ball in Metro Detroit is one of our most important campaigns.  It is significant because it funds 1/3 of our overall fundraising campaigns. We know that if the Heart Ball is successful we will save additional lives this year.

Q: What is the main focus of the American Heart Association?

O’Halla: The mission of the American Heart Association is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Our impact goal is to improve the health of all Americans by 20 percent by 2020, while reducing death and disability at the same rate. We will achieve our mission and impact goal by raising $3.5 million in metro Detroit, which enables us to fund a significant amount of research, education and community, and school programs. For example, we receive on average upwards of $11 million in research funding for our local institutions, so the return on investment is significant.

Q: How many volunteers are involved with the American Heart Association in metro Detroit?

O’Halla: Volunteers drive everything we do at the American Heart Association. Our initiative both nationally and locally called “Vision for Volunteerism” ensures that we have the most passionate and effective executives and grassroots volunteers to help us move our mission forward. As a hospital CEO, I believe that it is part of my personal responsibility to be a presence in my community and make sure that we are trying everything we can to eradicate the No. 1 killer of men and women, which is cardiovascular disease. That is why I got involved. We literally have thousands of volunteers in metro Detroit that are involved and helping in the same way I am.

Q: Why are you personally involved with the American Heart Association?

O’Halla: I chose to get involved with the AHA because of the close link between their mission as a health service organization and my hospital’s mission as a health provider.  Finding new ways to engage the communities we serve to improve their overall health status is a high priority for both organizations.

Q: The Association is working to diversify its board of directors. Why is that mission important?

O’Halla: It is extremely important that our board reflects the demographics of the communities that we serve. Each segment of the population has some different health concerns and challenges that we want to try and help with. Therefore, it makes sense to have people that can represent those diverse populations on our board. These people allow us to get input directly from those communities and help us communicate back to the communities on how we can help. 

Q: What other initiatives are on the radar this year for the AHA?

O’Halla: The American Heart Association has three major campaigns this year. Of course, the Heart Ball at MGM Grand Detroit. Our Go Red For Women Luncheon took place in February. The Heart Walk, which yields 20,000 participants, will be at Ford Field on June 8. On the advocacy side we continue to work to maintain the integrity of tobacco free Michigan legislation, trying to push through a bill that requires pulse oximetry for newborns in order to detect early heart defects (No. 1 birth defect in children) and to make sure our children are both physically active in school and that their meals are healthier in schools. This is also on top of our efforts to place an additional three teaching gardens in metro Detroit schools by June 30.

Q: How can others donate or contribute to the American Heart Association that cannot afford the $1,000 ticket?

O’Halla: We welcome folks to make a personal contribution in support of our mission at In fact, we are trying to raise $1.2 million to fund programs and research that effect all of the men, women and children of Metro Detroit.

Q: What percentage of each dollar contributed to the American Heart Association goes directly for research and helping those in need and how much to administration?

O’Halla: Forty-four percent of our funds go to public health education and community programs, 20 percent of our money raised goes to research, 14 percent to professional education and medical training, and 13.2 percent towards administration and fundraising costs.