“I don’t want my life to be defined by what is etched on a tombstone. I want it to be defined in what is etched in the lives and hearts of those I’ve touched.” ~ Steve Maraboli, “Life, the Truth and Being Free”
even know what that change is. Not so for the four honorees of Woman’s Day magazine’s
10th Annual Red Dress Awards, to be held on Tuesday, February 12. Meredith Vieira will host
the prestigious showcase, with former Law and Order alum S. Epatha Merkerson serving as
music segment host.
- Dr. Sanjay Gupta, multi-winning chief medical correspondent for CNN;
- Dana Vollmer, professional swimmer who was the youngest swimmer competing at the 2000 US Olympic Trials;
- Dr. Leslee Shaw, PhD, a research scientist who currently serves on the Cardiovascular Imaging Committee for the American Heart Association; and
- Karen Arrington, a women’s empowerment expert and global philanthropist based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
The honorees will receive the Red Dress Award distinction for their significant contributions in the fight against heart disease. Joy Bauer MS, RD, CDN, one of the nation’s leading health authorities will be the Campbell's Healthy Heart Award recipient.
According to Karen, her contributions in the fight against heart disease come naturally. The
disease has touched her life personally. “My mother had always been on hypertension
medication, which automatically puts me at risk for heart disease. My maternal grandmother, who I never met, had a stroke at age 50,” she said.
“Years ago, I checked through my city’s health department and I found that out of the 254
women who died, 220 died from heart disease. Since it’s preventable, why aren’t we on top of
this? Heart disease is the number one killer of women. I had to pick up the torch and run with
it," she added.
Karen’s coaching, mentoring and philanthropic work spans over 100,000 hours of service —
including her position as a Goodwill Ambassador to Gambia, co-founding the first Diabetes
Awareness Day in West Africa, as well as founding the Miss Black USA Pageant. She has been recognized by The Lifetime Network for her advocacy for women’s health, success and
empowerment — including a 2011 Empowerment Grant from Jones New York for her efforts in the fight against heart disease.
“I’ve committed myself to empower women to taking better care of their heart health,” she said.
The blueprint: DNA
The daughter of Civil Rights era contributors, Karen not only got to watch her parents serve, but
was also taught to contribute. “My parents always made sure all of their children were somehow involved in the betterment of our community, in one way or another. Service is in my DNA,” she laughed.
Mothering in the Motherland
It was 2007 when Karen resigned from her federal position to take 36 female youth on a
pilgrimage to Africa. She cited such a move as a higher calling. “I really felt God was speaking
to me. The imagery there – to see it live was nothing compared to what we’ve been shown
here. It’s a beautiful land with such a proud people.” During that trip, Karen received a
surprise visit from Binta Kinte, the remaining surviving relative of Kunta Kinte of author Alex
Haley’s Roots autobiographical fame.
“She was 94 years old and though she was ill, she was brought over to greet us. She gave me
a gift. I knew it was at that moment my work was complete,” Karen laughed. “Seriously,
there’s so much more work to be done.”
Having the Miss Black USA borne of her adventure, Karen has launched international
philanthropic campaigns to raise awareness of heart disease. To the present date, she has
negotiated $2M sponsorships for Miss Black USA, which has provided over $300,000 in
scholarships and financial aid for African-American youth scholars.
Connect with Karen and keep up with her philanthropic initiatives by visiting:
www.karenarrington.com. The Red Dress Awards, which will include live
performances, will be held at the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York, NY. Tickets are sold-out.