On Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association will host the 2015 Greater Washington Region Heart Ball at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. The event will run from 6:30 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday.
Fred McNair, President and CEO of McNair & Company and Open Your Heart Chair of AHA recently spoke with WashingtonExec about how the organization is making a huge impact on people’s lives, including his own.
WashingtonExec: Why are you involved with the American Heart Association?
Fred McNair: Personally, I have been impacted by heart maladies for more than 30 years. Research led to a procedure, called ablation surgery, which really changed my life for the better by fixing my history of atrial tachycardia. I suffered from atrial tachycardia six to eight times a year for 30 years, and it affected my daily life. Thanks to research funding and an extraordinary cardiac electro physiologist who explored this surgery, my life was changed in dramatic ways. I have not had an attack of atrial tachycardia for fifteen years, since I’ve had this surgery.
With heart disease and stroke, we know what the data are. It’s not a community problem, it’s not a country problem – it’s a global problem. Our great country is on the vanguard of research to improve people’s lives. That includes basic communications, lifestyle, exercise, smoking, and nutrition, all of which can make an enormous difference. The golden hour communications that we see in our school systems and in our government buildings that help people understand how to assist those in whom they see signs of stroke or heart attacks, these quick reaction, quick responses that are so vitally important to saving lives and enriching lives – that’s why I’m involved.
WashingtonExec: Can you describe to our readers what the “Open Your Heart Committee” is?
Fred McNair: The Open Your Heart Committee reaches out to individuals who have personally been impacted by stroke and heart disease and who want to make a difference. The best and most effective way that they can make a difference is with their very important dollars. In terms of my outreach within our community, I’ve been striving to build a network of awareness and philanthropy to those who have the means to give and to support the leadership efforts. The American Heart Association has both volunteer and full-time staff who do the day-to-day hard work in this charitable community in which we live. For me it is a privilege to be in a co-leadership position with Open Your Heart for the American Heart Association here in DC and to touch those in my network being a native Washingtonian. I’m thankful to those who contribute and participate, and I recognize that every gift and every dollar matters. The most powerful dollar gifts are where we have an anonymous donor willing to dedicate $75,000 for matching gifts of $5,000 or more. I thank him and I’m appreciative to be in this co-leadership role this year with American Heart.
WashingtonExec: With your life experience was it a natural decision for you to become the chair of this committee and take on that extra role?
Fred McNair: Over my professional and personal life I have found myself serving, learning and being mentored by volunteer organizations: Big Brother & Big Sisters of Washington, DC; the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Washington, DC; and the Mid-Atlantic Tennis and Education Foundation; and along the way, I graduated to a leadership position. One of the gifts that God has given me is my tennis experience. There was a period in my life when I played on the men’s professional tennis tour for 12 years during the era of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. Being a DC native son, coming back post-professional tennis career to raise a family and to build a business and provide for my family, I recognized that blessings come to those who give back and give back responsibly. I always use my tennis experience in ways to help raise funds for these other organizations, for at risk youth or for medically impaired youth and individuals.
It was a surprise the way that this leadership opportunity with American Heart came about. I was a volunteer and was identified as someone who might have the potential to raise money for the organization and to lead for a period of time. When I was initially offered I wanted to first and foremost go back and ask for the support of my wife and my family, because it does take time away from other opportunities, and I wanted to pray about it. I wanted to be sure that it felt like it was a calling that was the right time for me and part of God’s plan for me. Those boxes were checked and here I am; I’m in the throes of my second year. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to reach out to people in our community to introduce them to ways in which they can make a difference in this realm.
WashingtonExec: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Heart Ball?
Fred McNair: I’m looking forward to celebrating with the team. This is serious work that we have taken upon our shoulders and that starts with the full-time staff who are devoted to growing the research funds and the endowment for the American Heart Association. It’s saying thank you to our network of professional doctors and the leadership that the Board has devoted to expanding outreach, expanding the immediate impact on lives, the research and everything that has to do with the work. I’m looking forward to celebrating with everyone out there who works for the American Heart Association’s mission.
WashingtonExec: Is there anything that you would like our readers to know about the American Heart Association?
Fred McNair: To those people who are considering attending the Ball or contributing to our cause, I would say that you can trust that every dollar is going toward results. The data speaks to the truth that $0.86 of every dollar raised goes toward research and programs in our community. I think that’s what everyone wants to know: If I can’t invest the time but I’m thinking about investing my charitable dollars – why the American Heart Association? It’s because you can trust that we will optimize your financial contribution to the betterment of our community, our country and the world through the great works that our professionals, who are of the highest character and expertise, are bringing to the table.