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A Legacy in Leadership



By Alexis Nalley | Photography by Sarah Oden

Hair & Makeup by Suzy Balkman with Bristle + Balm | Shot on location at Mount St. Mary Academy

   The American Heart Association remains a driving force in the fight against heart disease and stroke. From the organization’s humble beginning, with the talents + tenacity of six cardiologists, AHA has become the largest volunteer organization with a finite focus on cardiovascular health. Now with more than 33 million patrons nationwide, the legacy of AHA is unwavering as a pioneer for building longer, healthier lives.

   The annual Heart Ball celebrates this legacy of leadership. As chairmen of the 18th Central Arkansas Heart Ball, Karen and John Flake will welcome guests to the Statehouse Convention Center on March 2nd for an evening of elegance that will further raise awareness and funding for AHA research and educational programs.

   Karen is President and CEO of Mount St. Mary Academy, a college preparatory school for young women, and upholds this year’s Heart Ball theme Ignite Knowledge daily. “Knowledge and awareness are the first steps to modifying unhealthy behaviors that can diminish the quality of our lives and limit our capacity to physically engage in meaningful work and spirited, fun activities,” she states. Karen represents this mantra as well as a spectrum of values that are the cornerstone of the Mount St. Mary Academy’s curriculum and life-preparedness mission. The Mercy Values – instilled by the Sisters of Mercy – have been guiding leadership among students at Mount St. Mary Academy for more than 160 years. Karen helps make success more accessible “for all young women, regardless of any socio-economic limitation and demographic.”


   Karen continues this mission to create meaningful change through her family’s support of the American Heart Association. An anticipated and beloved highlight of the Heart Ball is the formal presentation of the Sweethearts. The Sweetheart Program is an educational experience that provides young women with indispensable information about cardiovascular disease prevention and heart-healthy initiatives. “Both the Heart Ball and the Sweetheart Program serve as opportunities to Ignite Knowledge about the devastating impact of heart disease and steps to live a healthier life,” explains Heart Ball Director Tammy Quick.

   In service and in heart, Karen and John’s values reflect those of the American Heart Association. With their “can’t fail attitude,” as defined by Tammy, and a steadfast commitment to AHA, the 18th annual Heart Ball is sure to be a success. “Cardiovascular diseases are 80 percent preventable – but in order to prevent them we must first have the knowledge about warning signs, healthy nutrition and how to take care of our bodies. The Heart Ball also serves as an opportunity to raise funds to support life-saving research and advancing new technologies.”

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