A driven heart: Carolyn Jackson propels heart disease conversation

Carolyn Jackson (at left) was at the helm of the 59th Annual Phoenix Heart Ball whereas Ms. Jackson — a Paradise Valley resident — will receive national recognition for her efforts to cure heart disease. Ms. Jackson and her husband Craig are pictured at the 2017 Phoenix Heart Ball. (File photo)

While heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women worldwide, one Paradise Valley woman is being honored for her efforts resulting in the staggering sum of funds raised to bring awareness to the killer disease.

Carolyn Jackson, who served as chair of the 59th Annual Phoenix Heart Ball, used her platform to transform the black-tie event into a yearlong campaign with far-reaching impacts.

The moniker “Driven Hearts,” which was first used as the 2018 Phoenix Heart Ball theme and then expanded into a campaign in partnership with the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company, which reached an international audience, raising awareness and millions of dollars for the American Heart Association.

The tradition of the Phoenix Heart Ball has become a staple within the local community, and many Paradise Valley women are a part of the Heart Ball Committee.

Leading up to the event, held in the fall each year, the Heart Ball Committee donates their time and efforts to put together a special event, which in the end raises millions of dollars for the American Heart Association.

Since 1959, the Phoenix Heart Ball and its donors have raised more than $33 million to fight heart disease in the local community — and nationwide.

DRIVEN: The Driven Hearts campaign achieved unparalleled funds raised and international attention regarding heart disease and efforts to thwart the debilitating condition. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

In addition to heart disease being the No. 1 killer worldwide, stroke ranks second globally. The AHA has invested more than $4.1 billion in research, and Ms. Jackson sought to grow that effort.

“I am thrilled that through the hard work of the Phoenix Heart Ball Committee and the collector car community, the Driven Hearts campaign had a far-reaching impact — not only locally and nationally, but even internationally through TV coverage on the Discovery Channel, resulting in a substantial amount of awareness and funds raised for the American Heart Association,” Ms. Jackson said.

Over the past 50 years, significant progress has been made in the battle against heart disease, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease.

Improved diagnosis and treatment have made a large difference, with cardiovascular disease mortality rates seeing a decline of 50% since the 1970s. In addition, an estimated 44% of the decrease in heart disease deaths from 1980-00 was a result of prevention through the reduction of risk factors, according to the AHA.

By 2035, it is estimated cardiovascular disease will cost the United States more than $1 trillion in medical expenses and lost productivity.

Ms. Jackson, who serves as vice president of brand strategy for Barrett-Jackson, tapped into her network to incorporate heart-healthy messaging during live televised events. She used rare sports vehicles to draw attention to the issue, and employed social media to grow the hashtag #DrivenHearts.

Because of her efforts, Ms. Jackson will be bestowed the National American Heart Association Award of Meritorious Achievement this month.

“Carolyn’s passion for giving back to people and communities is incredibly inspiring,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “As the brainchild behind the Driven Hearts national campaign, Carolyn has created much-needed awareness of the risks of heart disease and stroke and raised significant funds to power life-saving research.”

From left is Nan Howlett, Ingrid Haas, C.A. Howlett, and Carolyn Jackson at the mic. (submitted photo)

A driven heart

The American Heart Association is a special organization to Ms. Jackson, she says, because of the impact heart disease and stroke has on people all over the world.

“The AHA has shown admirable dedication and passion over the years to raise funds for and increase awareness about heart disease and stroke — something that affects us all so very personally,” Ms. Jackson said.

“So many of my family members and friends — including many I’ve met through Barrett-Jackson in the collector car world — have been taken from us because of this deadly disease.”

Ms. Jackson says after learning 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events could be prevented by lifestyle changes and education, she knew she wanted to be involved with the organization.

“When I searched for a common thread among those I work with — both at Barrett-Jackson and everyone who is involved with the Phoenix Heart Ball — ‘driven’ immediately came to mind. There’s not one member of the Heart Ball committee who is accepting of mediocrity of just the average; they push to be above and beyond,” she said. “I am extremely grateful that my husband and the entire team at Barrett-Jackson supported this effort and embraced the Driven Hearts theme.”

Her husband, Craig Jackson, is the chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson, which was founded in 1971 by his father, Russ Jackson, and Tom Barrett. He was so inspired by his wife’s efforts and the campaign, he reportedly lost 50 pounds and lowered his blood pressure 30 points by exercising and changing his diet.

“Barrett-Jackson’s unique and visible platform was a tremendous help in terms of both raising funds and creating awareness for the AHA,” Ms. Jackson said. “The company has a long tradition of helping out causes large and small through the sale of vehicles on the auction block, with 100 percent of the sale price going to some very worthy causes, so naturally that was the first initiative that came to mind: Cars crossing the auction block to benefit the AHA.”

In addition, several other activations at Barret-Jackson events helped reinforce the message, including wrapping a Bugatti Veyron in a red and silver Driven Hearts livery; drivers wearing “Driven Hearts” logos on their shirts; prominent signage throughout auction sites; and a series of collectible decorative plates for cars.

“Another exciting initiative was the launch of the very first official Barrett-Jackson Arizona license plate, which people can purchase at any Arizona Motor Vehicle Division office or online at ServiceArizona.com,” Ms. Jackson said, noting the six-character plates cost $25, with $17 benefiting the AHA.

A larger-than-life purpose

In all, the Driven Hearts campaign not only raised millions of dollars, it reached millions of people.

“The most far-reaching impact was the tens of thousands of individuals around the world who were made aware of the importance of heart health by seeing the messaging at the Barrett-Jackson events,” Ms. Jackson said.

(Submitted photo)

“As the campaign progressed, more and more people stepped forward to help — by donating cars, raising funds, spreading the word on social media and more.”

Ms. Jackson says 100 million users have been impacted through the use of the hashtag #DrivenHearts, and the message reached over 1.6 billion television viewers across the globe, as well as more than 500,000 people who visited Barrett-Jackson auctions over the course of the campaign.

“According to a report published by the American Heart Association, there was also an astounding 2.6 media impressions, with an estimated $3.8 million in media publicity achieved,” Ms. Jackson said.

The collector cars at Barrett-Jackson continue to wear the “Driven Hearts” plates as they cross the auction block, which Ms. Jackson says continues to encourage conversation about the subject of heart disease and propels others to share on their social media feeds.

“Something that started small has taken on this larger-than-life purpose, and you can see the impact of Driven Hearts still happening today,” Ms. Jackson said. “As past-chairman of the Phoenix Heart Ball, I look forward to my continued involvement with what is one of the top Heart Balls in the nation, and supporting this year’s chairman, Kristine Thompson, as she prepares for the 60th Annual Phoenix Heart Ball on Nov. 23.”

Ms. Jackson says women of both the Phoenix Heart Ball as well as the AHA have been an inspiration to her, stating how together they all achieved the goal they set out at the beginning of this journey: To raise awareness about heart disease and stroke.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this tremendous and unexpected award,” she said. “It is wonderful to see the efforts and generosity of the Phoenix Heart Ball committee, the philanthropic community of Arizona and the collector car community recognized.”

The 60th Annual Phoenix Heart Ball will be held at The Phoenician Resort, 6000 E. Camelback Road, on Nov. 23. To donate or purchase tickets, visit phoenixheartball.heart.org.

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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