WASHINGTON D.C., May 21, 2024 – Sophe Sligh of Conway, Kelli Pierce of Pine Bluff and Miss Arkansas Cori Keller of Stuttgart will join the American Heart Association, celebrating 100 years of lifesaving service as the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, and advocates from across the country in Washington, D.C., this week to ask Congress to support legislation that would improve the chain of survival in elementary and secondary schools.

The advocates, including cardiac arrest survivors, families who have lost a loved one and health care providers, are part of the American Heart Association’s national grassroots network, You’re the Cure.

Pierce’s son, Joshua, suffered cardiac arrest during a junior high school football game in Pine Bluff in 2014 and was saved by four nurses who performed CPR until an AED could be located to restart his heart.

Sligh is a pediatric registered nurse in Little Rock and recently joined the staff of the American Heart Association-Central Arkansas after nearly a decade of advocating for the Association. Keller, a Stuttgart native with a personal connection to heart disease, speaks regularly to students, civic organizations, businesses and healthcare groups about the importance of prioritizing personal health. Sligh and Keller were part of a national delegation that went to Washington a year ago to ask their elected representatives to support nutrition and food security programs in the 2023 farm bill.

During this week’s meetings on Capitol Hill, Sligh, Pierce, Keller and their fellow advocates will share their personal stories and urge elected officials to swiftly pass the Cardiomyopathy Health Education, Awareness, Research and Training in the Schools Act or HEARTS Act (H.R. 6829) and the Access to AEDs Act (S. 1024), the former of which was approved unanimously by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March.

The group will emphasize the need for comprehensive legislation, such as the HEARTS Act and Access to AEDs Act, to support CPR and AED training in K-12 schools, enable the purchase of AEDs for use in schools, foster new and existing community partnerships to promote the importance of defibrillation in schools and create cardiac emergency response plans, which can help reduce death from cardiac arrest in school settings.

“I often wonder what would’ve happened to Joshua if no one knew what to do when he went into cardiac arrest,” said Pierce. “I believe that the HEARTS Act and Access to AEDs Act will ensure that more people are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency in schools.”

Every year, more than 356,000 people living in the U.S. experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, including up to 23,000 children. Early access to 911 and immediate CPR are the first two links in the chain of survival. For every minute without CPR, the chances of survival drop by 10%.

The American Heart Association created the Nation of Lifesavers initiative with the goal of doubling cardiac arrest survival rates by 2030.

“We believe the bipartisan HEARTS Act and Access to AEDs Act, along with similar legislation in states across the country, will help create more lifesavers in our communities and make our schools safer for students, staff and visitors on campuses nationwide,” said Dave Oberembt, SouthWest region lead and  government relations director for the American Heart Association in Arkansas.

Advocates nationwide are encouraged to text AED to 46839 to encourage their representatives in Washington D.C. to pass these lifesaving bills.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for a century. During 2024 - our Centennial year - we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments. As we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact our vision is to advance health and hope for everyone, everywhere. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook or X by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   


For Media Inquiries

Cyd King: M 479.263.8473; cyd.king@heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org