Saving lives, one heart at a time
By Shavonne Potts
Rebecca Chobat wants you to know that more people die in the United States from heart disease than any other condition.
Rebecca knows this fact firsthand because her father, David, died five years of a heart attack. Last fall, her mother, Sharon, had a heart attack. Heart disease runs in Rebecca's family.
Rebecca, 17, is a senior at South Rowan High and is submitting her graduation project on heart disease.
The project is a requirement of all seniors beginning with the class of 2010, Rebecca's class.
Students can choose any topic, write a research paper, complete 15 volunteer hours, create a portfolio and obtain a mentor. At the end of the project, each student must present their findings to a panel. The student will receive a pass or fail grade.
Rebecca is hoping to raise $2,000 for the American Heart Association.
Rebecca was 12 when her father died. He had a heart attack at the wheel and wrecked his car. The teenager was sitting in the hospital waiting room when a doctor broke the news to her mother.
"He said, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry but your husband is dead,' " Rebecca said.
She was confused at the time. But she knew he wasn't coming back. He wasn't coming back to take her on father-daughter movie night.
Rebecca still recalls the last movie they watched, "Without A Paddle", the day before his accident.
Her father was an independent photographer, who worked in NASCAR. She hopes to some day open her own business where she could display her father's work.
She will hold heart awareness week at her school the last week in September in memory of her father. Sept. 29 would have been his 65th birthday.
During that week, Rebecca will place posters throughout the school with tips to a healthier heart.
"Like walking 30 minutes a day can decrease your risk of heart disease," she said.
She will also make daily announcements featuring healthy living tips.
Rebecca received red and gold hearts from the American Heart Association, which she will sell and turn over the proceeds to the association's Virginia office.
The red hearts are $1 and the gold hearts are $3. She has committed to selling two hearts to each South Rowan student. Rebeccaa also hopes the community to will join in to help her reach her goal.
She intends to ask local business owners to donate items to be placed in a raffle. Anyone who buys a certain number of hearts will have a chance to win a prize.
Rebecca's campaign is entitled, "Have a Heart, Give a Heart." She came up with the title after learning a lot of the money raised will go toward patients receiving heart transplants.
When her mother, Sharon, had a heart attack, Rebecca found out from her nephew who told her, "grandma had a boo-boo."
Rebecca immediately called the hospital, which confirmed her mother was there, but did not tell Rebecca her condition.
Sharon Chobat's artery was 100 percent clogged. She has since had two stints put in place and both have collapsed. She is much healthier now.
"I understand why she wanted to do it. I am very proud of her," Sharon said. "I think she's going to be one of those people that will help the community."
Rebecca is placing her mom on some strict guidlines to stay healthy.
"When it comes to heart disease. That girl is serious," Sharon said.
Sharon appreciates Rebecca making her a number one priority.
"I have three girls and she's my heart and soul. I love all my girls, but she is my baby," Sharon said.
"If I can change one person's lifestyle that's going to be one less person to die of heart disease," Rebecca said.
Rebecca doesn't want anyone she knows to lose a parent to heart disease.
She believes the reason so many Americans have heart conditions and are obese is convenience. It's more convenient for a busy family to go to a fast food restaurant, she said, than to cook a healthy meal at home.
South Rowan Principal Dr. Donald Knox also encouraged Rebecca throughout her project.
"I spent time with Rebecca and we talked about this," he said.
Knox is also a mentor for a student at another school. He said not all students do a service project, some do a hobby or career.
"It's really neat to watch the kids show off their talent," he said.
Assistant Principal Alison Camponi, who is also the Graduation Project Coordinator, said the project is also a way for students to learn how to speak in public and learn about being a service to their community.
"The kids really feel like they've accomplished something and that is a really exciting thing for them," Camponi said.
Knox and Camponi encourage residents to become mentors for these students. The two also ask for people to volunteer to become judges when students present their projects to a panel in October and December.
Every school needs volunteers, Knox said.
To become a volunteer, contact a local high school.
For more information about "Have a Heart, Give a Heart," contact Chobat at email@example.com or 704-224-3213.