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Recognizing Women Leaders and Assist Organizations Fighting Heart

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Press release

The combined passion and heartfelt efforts of five “queens of hearts” – – Charkarra Anderson-Lewis, Andrea Estes, Barbara Gathers, Teresa Kennedy and Sandra Waters — has helped inspire change in the lives of thousands of African American women. Today, these five leaders were honored with a 2008 Cheerios Sisters Saving Hearts grant award for their work to raise awareness for heart disease prevention particularly among black women. Each winner receives a $5,000 check from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and Cheerios, which she can donate to the non-profit, heart- health organization of her choice.

As the only cold cereal clinically proven to lower cholesterol, Cheerios is committed to empowering women who are working to fight heart disease. The grant program is in its second year and honors heart-health heroes with $5,000 each in unrestricted funds for operating expenses. The five winners also will be awarded a trophy representing their commitment to their local communities, and recognized on SistersSavingHearts.com. “We are very proud to recognize these amazing women for their tireless work, commitment and compassion on behalf of their friends, family members and neighbors,” said Elsie L. Scott, PhD., CBCF’s president and chief executive officer. “Statistics show that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans, and we know it disproportionately affects those of African heritage. However, we can find inspiration and hope woven throughout our Sisters Saving Hearts winners’ stories. With continued effort, we can end this terrible disease.”

The 2008 winners are:

Charkarra Anderson-Lewis — Hattiesburg, MS After losing her mother to heart disease, Charkarra took steps to ensure she would not endure a similar fate. Charkarra shared her story — and her passion — for healthier hearts for all and created My Mother’s Heart Foundation in 2006. Since, she has touched thousands of women in her Mississippi community through wellness seminars, workshops, health fairs, screenings, church presentations and events. Her $5,000 grant will help fund the third annual Queens of Healthy Hearts Royal Slumber Party over Mother’s Day weekend. More than 250 sisters of all ages will arrive with pajamas and pillows in tow to learn how to be healthier and happier through preventative care, fitness and diet.

Andrea Estes — North Versailles, PA Andrea’s heart-inspiring dedication has touched an estimated 25,000 people in the Pittsburgh area. After losing her husband, a minister, to cardiovascular disease, Andrea took a job with the American Heart Association to support her two adopted children. Here she has helped expand the depth and breadth of the community’s Sister to Sister conference, which celebrates 12 years of successful outreach to African American women. Andrea has inspired her staff, colleagues and volunteers to strive to fight — and eventually overcome — heart disease. Andrea’s $5,000 grant will be gifted to the American Heart Association.

Barbara Gathers — Charleston, SC After being diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2005, Barbara was fortunate to receive a heart transplant. A year later, she vowed to help others by forming the Women’s Resource Project, a non-profit organization that identifies critical issues affecting women such as health and family. She has worked with the BET Foundation to actively arm hundreds of women with heart disease prevention tactics. With the $5,000 Cheerios Sisters Saving Hearts grant, Barbara plans to host a women’s health forum that will spark awareness through motivational workshops and panel discussions. The power packed event will also put heart-healthy tools and wellness tips within attendees’ reach relating to the importance of a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Teresa Kennedy — New York, NY Teresa, described as a woman who is “smart with a heart,” has actively helped thousands of individuals from all walks of life discover the path to a healthier heart. She wears many hats in her role as teacher, trainer and speaker. Eight years ago, she opened one of the first yoga studios in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. Since then, she has served as a holistic health counselor, a life coach, an ambassador for the American Heart Association and a speaker for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She holds an MBA from Harvard and a PhD in world religions. Teresa plans to donate her $5,000 grant to fund a session on stress and heart disease through Harlem’s H.E.A.L. (Healthy Eating And Living) initiative.

Sandra Waters — San Bernardino, CA Sandra is described by her peers as “the voice of heart health in the Inland Empire’s African American community.” Using her knowledge and her voice, Sandra served as the president of the Inland Empire Black Nurses Association where she reached out to help communities of color better understand their increased risk for heart disease — and prevention techniques. She teaches nursing at San Bernardino Valley College and works with both the American Heart Association and the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County. She also was an active participant on the California Heart and Stroke Task Force. Sandra’s ultimate goal is to establish health resource centers in neighboring churches as a way to readily share information and resources with African American women and families.

“From coast to coast, each honoree is truly making a difference by leading with her heart and improving overall health in her community,” said Sarah Rohland, Cheerios marketing. “We applaud their commitment and their ability to touch so many women of color with their work. They inspire us all with their extraordinary efforts to promote wise lifestyle choices and we hope more people will hear their stories and be encouraged to take positive steps to end heart disease.” The CBCF and Cheerios received dozens of nominations for individuals and organizations from across the U.S. from February 1 through March 15, 2008.

Winners were selected by a panel of judges based on their creativity, quality of service, reach/impact of their work and their direct ability to help educate women on the importance of lowering their cholesterol. The grants are part of Cheerios Circle of Helping Hearts broader heart-health initiative, which arms consumers with useful information on heart disease prevention and provides steps to a heart healthy lifestyle via diet, exercise, and regular cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. For more information about Cheerios Sisters Saving Hearts visit http://www.SistersSavingHearts.com.

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