Twenty-seven years ago at age 51, Bob Schon suffered a heart attack, which resulted in coronary artery bypass surgery. Bob knew it was time to make a lifestyle change. Bob, an avid smoker, made his first step toward a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking. He then abandoned his sedentary lifestyle and started exercising and eating a heart-healthy diet. “I’ve maintained the changes I made for the last 25 years and feel better now at age 78 than I did at 51,” Bob said. Bob’s commitment to living a heart-healthy life and the reputation of the American Heart Association as a leader in heart and stroke research led Bob to become an active volunteer for the association.
Bob started by volunteering for the Minneapolis North Memorial Medical Center’s Mended Hearts, an affiliated organization of the American Heart Association. Members visit hospitals and talk – and, most importantly, listen – to others who are learning how to survive heart disease. Bob also volunteers with the AARP, where he is a past local chapter president and an active participant in their advocacy program. As a volunteer for the Order of Eastern Star, Bob helped introduce a heart-healthier menu at the organization’s Minnesota State Fair booth.
Volunteering wasn’t enough for Bob; he wanted to spark change. Before 1993, volunteers only visited the surgical patients at North Memorial Medical Center. Bob felt that all heart patients could benefit from visits from former patients. Bob, along with 11 others, created the Heart Center Volunteer Program, a program where every patient who’s had a heart attack or open heart surgery is visited by a volunteer. The group has grown to more than 60 members in the last 13 years. Bob also participates in the American Heart Association's Start! Heart Walk as a walker and a financial contributor and has served on a committee for his local Heart Ball.
His efforts go beyond the American Heart Association. Bob was also instrumental in forming a “Heart Club.” This monthly, one-hour program focuses on a variety of health-related subjects. The club has a mailing list of 1,500 and is open to the public. The speakers are typically medical staff or represent one of the many medical device companies in the Minneapolis area. Bob and his wife Shirley are grateful to the American Heart Association for the research that has lead to his successful surgery and a change in his lifestyle. They plan to continue supporting the fight against heart disease by sharing their assets with the American Heart Association and other charities through their estate plan. “It was a great feeling when Shirley and I reviewed our estate plan and prioritized the charities we want to support,” Bob said. “The American Heart Association does a lot of research that has helped me. I would like to be remembered as someone who was there to help others with heart disease.”