Jennie Garth on stroke awareness campaign: ‘Be your own advocate’

Actress Jennie Garth was 13 when she realized that a stroke can strike anyone at any time.

Her 16-year-old neighbor — a “vibrant, beautiful” young woman — had a stroke while getting ready for school.

Several loved ones have since been affected by the disease, including her mother-in-law. And her former close friend and Beverly Hills, 90210 co-star Luke Perry died last March at age 52 from a massive ischemic stroke.

That’s why her campaign to raise funds for the American Stroke Association is so close to her heart, she said.

“The most important thing for me personally is to educate people so they can be their own advocate,” said Garth, star of Beverly Hills, 90210 and the new BH90210. “It’s an opportunity to raise money [on behalf of] a dear friend and to hopefully spread awareness at the same time.”

Participants could win a trip with a friend to meet Garth and her costars Gabrielle Carter, Tori Spelling and Ian Ziering for lunch in Beverly Hills. The all-expenses-paid trip will take place in early 2020. The campaign ended Oct. 30.

Garth said the response has been tremendous. Although no donations were necessary to win, most people want to contribute to the cause.

“We’ve gotten so many great responses and entries and are learning so much about how stroke has affected people across the world,” Garth said. “It’s been very interesting and inspiring.”

Stroke kills an estimated 140,000 Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is one out of every 20 deaths. In the United States, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes.

Ischemic stroke, which blocks blood flow to the brain, is the most common form.

Garth hopes the campaign will result in greater knowledge about stroke signs and prevention. For example, she wants to spread the word about the “F.A.S.T” warning signs: facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911.

She also wants to get the word out about prevention, not only for stroke but for heart disease, which claimed her father’s life.

Garth, who remembers Perry for “his immense kindness,” said she can’t wait for the meetup in 2020.

“It's been very successful and we’re so excited for the winner to come and hang out with us,” Garth said.