When Don Joseph collapsed on a Lufkin, Texas, golf course 10 years ago while competing alongside his wife, Dolly, he already knew that donations to the American Heart Association help fund lifesaving research. However, the longtime volunteer and board member experienced the value of cardiovascular research firsthand at a local hospital when doctors administered a clot-busting drug approved ten years earlier to stabilize him for a subsequent angioplasty to open his clogged arteries.
“I’d never had any indication that this could happen,” Don said. “It was a complete surprise.” He almost overlooked his first symptoms; he thought he had indigestion. “Once we got to the hospital, they said it was a little more serious than that.”
Don’s ties with the American Heart Association began long before he nearly died on the golf course. After graduating from Texas A&M University in 1951, he entered the Air Force. For the next five years Don flew missions during the Korean War. In 1974, a friend invited him to volunteer for the American Heart Association, and he has been donating his time ever since. Now that he has been touched by heart disease, his ties to the American Heart Association are stronger than ever. Don’s biggest legacy at the American Heart Association is helping bring Jump Rope For Heart to Texas. Don and CEO M. Cass Wheeler (then Executive Vice President of the former Texas Affiliate) discovered the program at the association’s office in Chicago and launched it in Texas during the 1980-81 school year. The program engages elementary students in the physical activity of jumping rope while they raise money for research and programs to save lives from heart disease and stroke, America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers.
About a decade later a middle school program, Hoops For Heart, was added to schools in Texas. Together these programs raise more than $7 million each year in Texas alone. “It’s fun and it’s healthy, and the fundraising is a byproduct of that.” The programs have been a tremendous success.“I’m passionate about the American Heart Association because I believe in the mission,” Don said. The volunteers are sincere and committed.”
After 25 years of service to the American Heart Association, Don retired as treasurer on the national Board of Directors. Yet he continues to make a difference. With the help of the association’s planned giving department staff, Don has generously provided for his family, his church, Texas A&M University and the American Heart Association in his will.
“No one is doing what we do,” Don said. “A contribution to the American Heart Association is a contribution to the well-being of the community.”
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