Growing up, February was a whirlwind of Valentine's Day cards and classroom parties, filled with the sweet thrill of candy and heartfelt notes. Over time, this month of love evolved into romantic dinners and surprise bouquets. But seventeen years ago, it deepened profoundly with the loss of my mother, Beth, to a stroke at 50. This personal tragedy infused February with a new depth of meaning for me, blending love with loss and a newfound focus on heart health. It inspired me to create 'Leading with Legacy - The Heart Project,' a living tribute to my mother's memory and a pledge to transform our approach to heart care, both emotionally and physically. My mother was an example of kindness, her heart as huge as the community she cherished. She poured her love into every corner of our town, teaching me that life's true calling extends far beyond oneself. I fondly recall Saturdays with her, as we joined the youth group to bring joy to the local children’s home — these moments are etched in my heart. Her compassion knew no bounds; she was a quiet warrior for women at the local shelter, a cause close to her heart, having bravely navigated those turbulent waters herself. She is the sole reason I am who I am. As I grew older, our bond blossomed into a beautiful friendship. Our Saturday breakfasts became cherished rituals, where conversations flowed freely. The last time I saw her, we were engaged in the simple joy of a shared meal and laughter, wandering the familiar streets of our downtown with my sister Jamie and Aunt Mandi. Those moments, now priceless memories, continue to fuel my journey in honoring her legacy.
In 2021, alongside Michelle Vance and a group of friends I refer to as the ‘Lioness Tribe’, we ignited a spark with 'Women of Windsor (WOW) Goes Red.' This heart health awareness luncheon, a tribute to my mother, saw an overwhelming response – tickets sold out in days. As the Emcee, sharing her story publicly for only the second time, I felt a mix of nerves and resolve. The connection it created was profound. Many shared their similar experiences, finding solace in our shared journey. Among them, two women, now dear friends, whose mothers had also battled strokes. That day, we didn't just share stories; we wove a tapestry of hope and healing, marking the start of my journey in transforming grief into purpose.
In March 2023, a dream took flight with the launch of 'Leading with Legacy – The Heart Project' as a 501c3 organization. This venture reflects a journey much deeper than just the physical aspects of heart health—it's about embracing the heart's emotional rhythm and the community's role in nurturing it. This mission was inspired by my mother, who embodied the spirit of service and love, teaching me that heart health extends beyond what we learn from doctors. Our mission, 'preserving the past, empowering the future; leaving a heart-healthy legacy,' is a testament to this holistic vision. We recognize that maintaining a healthy heart is not solely a matter of diet and exercise. It’s equally about the warmth of emotional bonds and the strength of a supportive community. This approach is not just a tribute to those we've lost, like my mother, but it's also a pledge to future generations to cultivate a life of emotional richness and physical well-being.
Our organization champions the heart in all its forms. We believe in the power of community to foster both physical and emotional heart health. In September 2023, we celebrated this belief with the inaugural Heart Project Pickleball Invitational. This event brought together over 60 players and fifteen local businesses, creating a vibrant community spirit. The purpose was to raise funds for our Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit Grant, designed to support individuals committed to transforming their lives.
This month, we’re excited to host our first Leading with Legacy Ladies Luncheon. It's not just an event; it's a movement towards increasing awareness about heart health and stroke prevention while weaving the threads of community and connection. As we journey through February, a month symbolic of love in all its forms, let's also turn our attention to the silent yet steadfast rhythm of our hearts. My mother's life and legacy are a constant reminder of the importance of nurturing our heart health, both physically and emotionally. Her story, echoing through our work, is an invitation to you. It’s an invitation to cherish and care for your heart, to recognize the intricate connection between our emotional well-being and physical health. In honoring our hearts, we do more than just remember those we've lost; we lay the foundations for a healthier, more connected future. Let's embrace this legacy together, building a world where every heart beats strong, supported by love and community.
If you're inspired by our journey and wish to learn more about 'Leading with Legacy - The Heart Project,' and how you can be a part of our mission to nurture heart health in all its forms, please visit our website at https://leadingwithlegacy-theheartproject.org. Join us in this heartfelt endeavor to create a legacy of love, health, and community.
"We believe in the power of community"- Bethany Norman
"In honoring our hearts, we do more than remember those we've lost" - Bethany Norman