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Infinite Hearts and a Tapestry of Style
By Tyler Butler
The Phoenix Heart Ball has come a long way in its 58-year history. Originally founded by the late Peggy Goldwater, the purpose of the event focused primarily on research for pacemakers, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and bypass surgery. At the time the event was launched, these innovations were leading the way in helping to keep hearts healthy. Throughout its acclaimed history the event has raised more than $30 million through its outreach efforts and has risen to be one of the most prestigious galas in the nation — creating a unique point of pride for the Phoenix community.
As time has passed though, so has the allocation of these valuable fundraising dollars. These days this important event contributes most heavily towards preventative and instructional programs designed to educate children on nutrition and exercise; to teach adults about risk factors and cholesterol reduction; and to alert the community about how to recognize the signs of heart attack and stroke. And just as the purpose for this elegant event has evolved, so has the fashion this event is renowned for.
In fact, there is a story in of itself that can be seen through the gowns worn by the Heart Ball committee chairs. And much of the fashion on display at the gala is driven by the color and theme cultivated by the Chairwoman herself. The emergence of an event theme over the past few years has brought a distinctive elegance to each year’s event. Whether it is Hearts in Rhythm, Passionate Hearts, Share Your Heart or in the case of the 2017 event, Infinite Hearts, the theme and colors have been a driver in making this long standing, popular event fresh and new each year.
Outside of the traditional red related with the American Heart Association, there have been many color schemes that have added drama to the Heart Ball. For many years Neiman Marcus was the designated go-to for gowns and dressed countless committed community leaders for this special occasion. And Saks Fifth Avenue has also played a role in keeping this event and the crowd supporting it abreast of cutting edge and revitalized traditions in fashion.
Over the years of saving lives, the gowns worn have weaved a tapestry of dedication, character, style and community. Each year attendees carefully select or create unique gowns to make a statement and also to showcase their commitment to this valuable organization. Moreover, in the past several years themes have emerged as a way to differentiate each year’s unique flair. Chairwoman for the 2009 gala, Beth McRae, chose purple and gold and kept the theme in sync with the events milestone. “The 50th Anniversary inspired the color scheme – purple as a regal color and gold for the 50th. I had a special Heart Ball crest designed that we used in our collateral materials and as part of the Ball décor,” Beth said.
Last year, Chairman Jennifer Weidner Carmer chose the theme of Hearts in Rhythm, which celebrated the legacy of women who have worked together to better their community. The selected colors of pink and grey with a little pop of leopard print represented a tribute to her mother as well as a fun twist adding the cheeky sentiment that “animal print goes with anything…it’s a neutral.” It also served as a reminder that heart disease does remain the number one killer of women. In addition to the 2016 event being the 25th anniversary of Neiman Marcus in Arizona, it also showcased the serious work being done by this passionate group. Carmer said, “The Arizona State Legislature passed AZ bill SB1337 that requires graduating students to complete hands-only CPR training. Because of this new legislation, the 2016 Heart Ball had the unique privilege to be the inaugural year to fund the life-saving CPR in Schools Sponsorships.”
This same spirit of purpose is present in this year’s Infinite Hearts themed gala. Dynamic chairwoman Char Hubble said that “the inspiration for the 2017 event comes from this being the 58th Heart Ball on the 18th of November. The infinity sign is shaped like an eight so it just seemed like the most appropriate theme.” This years’ event is doubly innovative as Hubble’s selection of color, which is aimed to most represent her as the Chairwoman, will be unlimited because she believes that ”every day should be filled with color and beauty.”
The collective power and personality of the women who have chaired this event over its celebrated history is remarkable. Not only have they led the way for progress in this vital area of health, but they have done so with panache. The innovation through fashion and design used to promote and grow this mega-event is present each year as a new color scheme and theme is imagined. And there is undoubtedly a connection between giving and style that can be seen through these generous dogooders. Hubble said it best when she explained, “Philanthropy helps a person show their inner beauty, while fashion helps show your outer beauty and one needs both of those things to be the best version of themselves.”
It is clear that the women leading this charge have a magnanimous philanthropic essence as well as the style and approach to keep the storied Phoenix Heart Ball leading the way as one of the nation’s most glamourous fundraising galas. The presence of great inner beauty shown through their commitment to philanthropy and pizazz as shown through their constant development of the theme continues to astonish supporters and keep this event and the cause it supports at the forefront.