DALLAS, April 29, 2020 — Stroke is a leading cause of death and a major cause of disability in the U.S. Yet millions of survivors, caregivers and supporters overcome the challenges stroke presents each day. This year, the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, is honoring stroke survivors, heath care professionals and family caregivers from around the U.S. through the inaugural Stroke Hero Awards. In these uncertain times, the winners of the Stroke Hero Awards demonstrate that resilience in the face of change is possible and should be celebrated.

Winners include:

  • Voters’ Choice: Mark Kincaid – In 2009, at age 42, Mark had a stroke due to undiagnosed and unmanaged high blood pressure. At the time, his prognosis was grim. His wife, Tonya, was told he likely would not survive and even if he did, he likely wouldn’t walk or talk again. And yet, Mark beat the odds. Today, Mark does not let his right-sided weakness or aphasia and apraxia stop him from doing all he can. He works hard to support stroke survivors in his area and to do the things he has always enjoyed.
  • Outstanding Group: The Aphasia Choir of Vermont – Led by Karen McFeeters Leary, a speech language pathologist and singer/songwriter in Milton, Vermont, the Aphasia Choir of Vermont allows more than 50 stroke survivors and caregivers to find their voice and sing for a growing audience. Many stroke survivors are impacted by aphasia, which disrupts a person’s ability to speak as they had prior to the stroke. Karen and her choir show that music is a universal language as they perform each year for crowds of nearly 600 people.
  • Outstanding Caregiver: Jill Veach – Two years ago, Cincinnati area mom, Jill, received a call from her daughter’s babysitter. Her then-eight-year-old was showing symptoms of a stroke. Emergency Medical Services and the team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center confirmed that her daughter Claudia had a stroke. After two years, Claudia has fully recovered.  Today, Jill and Claudia work hard to raise awareness of pediatric stroke both locally and nationally and have shared their story through the Greater Cincinnati Stroke Consortium.
  • Outstanding Support Group: Hazard Stoke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group – Based in rural Hazard County, Kentucky, members of this support group are more like family members than acquaintances. They meet monthly and have educated more than 600 students in local schools on stroke prevention and warning signs.
  • Outstanding Survivor: Gracie Doran – In 2009, at age 10, Gracie, from Laguna Niguel, California had a stroke. Ever since, her mother, Barbara, says Gracie has been a tireless advocate for all those affected by stroke. Gracie has spoken at many local and national American Stroke Association events, including the White House Healthcare Summit in 2016. Today, Gracie is working toward her Masters’ degree in Social Justice and Leadership and she hopes to go on to law school and become an advocate for other stroke survivors.

Strokes don’t discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at any age - and about one in four people worldwide will have one in their lifetime.

For more information, visit www.Stroke.org/HeroAwards.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association officially launched in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit StrokeAssociation.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

For Media Inquiries:

Alexson Calahan, Alexson.calahan@heart.org, 515-994-0772

For Public Inquiries:

1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org