CHEYENNE, WYO., Aug. 31, 2023 — Braylon Escobedo , a seventh-grader at Carey Junior High School in Chyenne, and Collyns Page, a first-grader at Douglas Primary School in Douglas, Wyo., have been selected by the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, to serve as a volunteer local Youth Heart Ambassador for the 2023-2024 school year.
Braylon and Collyns will work closely with the American Heart Association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™, to actively and passionately champion other children to establish healthy habits to better mental and physical well-being.
The American Heart Association accepted nominations from young people who have been affected by heart disease or stroke either through a personal diagnosis, diagnosis of a loved one, or has made a personal lifestyle change, to serve in the Youth Heart Ambassador role.
Braylon, 12, was diagnosed at age 9 with a bicuspid aortic valve and enlarged ascending aorta. He’s well-versed in his diagnosis because his dad, John Escobedo, had the same heart issue, which required open-heart surgery to correct it. Braylon explains it this way: “My valve only has two flaps, not three like everyone else. That means it does not pump my blood as easily and causes pressure on my aorta.” The aorta is the main artery of the body, supplying oxygenated blood to the circulatory system.
“I can still run and do all the fun stuff, but as I grow, I have to be careful and not put too much stress on my heart,” Braylon says. He will likely need open-heart surgery when he gets older.
Collyns, 6, experienced an abnormally rapid heartbeat in May of 2021 and was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (CHD) known as Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. The cause is an extra electrical connection in the heart. Although WPW is present at birth, symptoms may not develop until later in life.
Collyns’ symptoms recurred in December 2021, and she received an ablation, a procedure that uses small burns or freezes to cause some scarring on the inside of the heart to help break up the electrical signals that cause irregular heartbeats.
“My heart was beating too fast for my little body,” recalls Collyns. “I continue to have yearly heart checkups to make sure my heart stays healthy.”
The Youth Heart Ambassadors serve a one-year commitment as a volunteer of the American Heart Association assisting the organization to be a relentless force for healthier lives for all. The position gives youth a voice to encourage, advocate and underscore the need for to raise critical funding as they share the impact cardiovascular disease has had on their life.
Rooted in physical activity, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™ are service-learning programs that teach students how to improve their overall health while doing good for the health of others. Through interactive curriculums and various online challenges, participating students get active and have fun while raising funds and awareness for congenital heart defects, nutrition security, CPR training, mental well-being and more. These collective efforts help further the American Heart Association’s mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.
Schools interested in participating in either Kids Heart Challenge™ or American Heart Challenge™ receive expanded curriculum resources for both classrooms and in-home learning environments can register now for next school year. To learn more about our school programs please visit www.www.heart.org/getstarted. More information can be found online, heart.org/youthambassadors.
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 nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook or Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
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