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Long-time volunteer honored, life-saving measures enabled

The American Heart Association plays a pivotal role in the research, support and funding for prevention of heart-related diseases. Locally, they promote “building healthier lives where you live and work.”

For the countless hours put forth by volunteers and organizers locally, an annual awards banquet and celebration night is hosted by the local division of the AHA.

“It was a fantastic event. It’s a tradition to have the opportunity every year to celebrate the success of our past fiscal year,” said Tricia Desvarro, AHA division director, referring to the event on July 20 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Uniontown.

“This year, we got to do something a little extra,” Desvarro added with a laugh.

This year, she said they had the honor to award a long-time volunteer and chairperson.

For more than 62 years, Leda S. Gismondi has been dedicated to the efforts made by this division of the AHA. Gismondi has played an active role in the organization of many fundraising efforts, including the Open Your Heart campaign, during which she helped raise about $25,000, Desvarro said.

Gismondi was awarded the Great Rivers Affiliate Leadership Legacy Award, which requires a minimum of ten years of service.

With a laugh, Desvarro said Gismondi far surpassed that requirement.

“She sets the bar,” Desvarro added. “She’s been very involved in the community over the years; it’s her passion to work with it. Her children all followed in suit with philanthropy. She’s left a legacy.”

The Uniontown Hospital was also recognized during the ceremony for their accomplishments with cardiology, stroke care and heart failure.

The hospital’s CEO, Steve Handy, who is also the chairman for the 2018 Heart Ball where Uniontown Hospital will also be a legacy sponsor, was also recognized.

“It’s his mission to create a community of life savers,” Desvarro said. “They’re going to reach hand-only CPR to as many people as they can — not just the ones required to know it.”

Desvarro said there are about 400 hospital employees — everyone from house keepers and bookkeepers to office workers — who aren’t required to know the life-saving measures.

“Now, they’ll be trained to save a life,” she said.

Josh Krysak, community relations director with the hospital, said some of the departments have already received the training, while others will continue to do so in the coming months.

“With our focus on the heart as we celebrate 20 years of saving lives in our Cardiac Cath Lab, and as we prepare for the annual Heart Walk, we have begun working to implement Hands Only CPR to our entire hospital staff, including non-clinical employees,” Krysak said.

“This is something that we can offer employees that will empower them to take action outside of our facility should they encounter someone in need,” he continued. “It really is another way for us to make a healthy difference for our community and for our entire staff to make a healthy difference in the lives they touch outside of their roles in our hospital.”

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