The Red Shoe Lunch (RSL) is an annual event started in Atlanta, Georgia in 2010. Our event is attended by both women and men and while most people wear red shoes, you are not required to do so. This annual event is hosted in various locations throughout metro Atlanta and the attire is business casual.
RSL is held each year on the last Saturday of February. This is a fun, heart warming and informational fundraising event. We creatively raise funds with an exciting raffle that is typically a highlight of the afternoon!
In previous years 100% of the proceeds were donated to the American Heart Association in memory of Veronica Blount. We've raised nearly $20,000 for AHA. The Veronica Blount Memorial Page is still active on the AHA website and supporters are encouraged to donate; however, our primary focus going forward is to support the newly established Veronica Blount Memorial Foundation. Through our yearly fundraising efforts, we will include an annual giving campaign to continue our support of the American Heart Association.
VBMF's (Veronica Blount Memorial Foundation) focus is to educate women and men in underprivileged and underserved communities about heart disease and other health issues plaguing our society. The Red Shoe Lunch is VBMF's annual flagship event.
Read our Founder's story below to understand how it all started.
On July 9, 2000 my mother, Veronica Blount died from complications of heart disease; she was 46 years old. In 2010, I experienced my first major heart episode resulting in a cardiac catheterization; I was 37 years old. Once released from the hospital I called my friends and asked them to meet me for lunch at a local restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia to celebrate my mother's birthday. I asked the ladies to wear red shoes in support of the American Heart Association and Heart Month. I treated everyone to lunch and in return I asked them to make a donation to the American Heart Association in memory of my mother.
It was just days prior to this event that I realized what happened to my mother could happen to me. I reflected on the history of women in my family; each dying younger than their mother. My mother, Veronica died at 46; her mother, Dolores died at 52 and her mother, Mary Agnes died at 68. It was in this moment, at age 37 in this restaurant surrounded by these strong women whom I called my friends that I determined I would not be a victim of heart disease. I vowed I would fight to break this unfortunate cycle. I wanted to live longer than my mother. I understood the hereditary aspect and I understood my odds, but my mother's death was a warning to me. Maybe if I hadn't been rushed to the hospital where I laid on that cold operating room table in Atlanta and heard the nurses refer to me as "the young girl", just as the nurses back in Baltimore ten years prior had referred to my mother, then maybe I would have missed the message. Up until this series of events I didn't think my mother's heart issues had anything to do with me and now they have everything to do with me!
I can’t say that I excelled at the perfect healthy lifestyle; in fact there were many times I fell short; however, there was so much I changed in regards to my lifestyle and diet. If nothing else, I kept every appointment with my Cardiologist and treated those appointments sacred. I believe that by the time my mother collapsed on the floor at her job when she was just 43 years old, it was too late for her. It would not only be the first day she’d ever miss work; it would be the last day she’d ever return. During the 3 years after my mother's incident, my mother endured multiple quadruple bypass surgeries and her chest scars had become a part of her personality. She would often burst the stitches right after surgery from laughing so hard. In fact, she was doing just that when she died. My mother was laughing at a Tyler Perry movie and the peanut she was eating became lodged in her throat. Even though she was able to cough up the peanut and family members were able to immediately assist with medical attention, those few seconds were more than her weak heart could handle. A lady with one of the biggest hearts in the world died because her big heart wasn’t strong enough. Maybe if my mom had sought medical care much earlier than that tragic day she collapsed to the floor, then she too would have lived a longer life, like David Letterman. The late night host underwent his quadruple bypass just days before my mother and he was back on the air joking about how easy it was. It wasn’t easy for her and she was much younger than he. Why did he give us false hope? Why did my mother have to die? I was in my early twenties and remember feeling that way. I remember feeling that maybe if we were rich, my mother could have been treated by the best doctors and maybe she would have lived.
I decided to make this lunch an annual event, growing it each year by inviting more people. Among those who knew me, I became the unofficial poster-child for heart disease, leading a fight to educate and inform. I knew my stats, I knew the signs, yet I was still trying to graduate from my bi-monthly appointments with the cardiologist to 6 month appointments and eventually to yearly appointments which was the goal. In May 2014, now at the age of 41 I was experiencing some sort of illness, I thought it was a bug bite so I drowned some Benadryl and ignored warnings from others that I needed to go to the hospital. Even when the entire left side of my body stopped functioning properly and I couldn’t even unzip my jeans to use the bathroom, I denied that it was anything cardiac related. This was four years after my cardiac cath and four years into being the local “poster-child” for heart disease so I knew FAST (Face, Arms, Speech and Time). I knew the signs of a stroke, but this wasn't happening to me; it was a bug bite, or at least that's what I told myself.
Well on that day, I vaguely remember an EMT pulling me from my running car that was pulled to the side of a gas station in Suwanee, Georgia. I remember them talking to me, but I could not talk. I remember them yelling code red on the walkie talkie. I remember trying to talk to them and they were telling me to hold on. When I opened my eyes there were a group of doctors surrounding me, one was a Neurologist and another was shining a bright light into my eyes. I could hear myself speaking but the words sounded like a tape recorder that was dragging; it didn’t sound like me at all. I began to panic and then caught a look at myself in the mirror over the sink and I realized my entire face was drooping. I went into full panic mode and woke up sometime that evening in a bed on the intensive care floor. I remember my friend, my brother and my son being in the room at some point. A nurse said to me “I heard the call come in over the loud speaker and I knew you would be my patient tonight, but I didn’t know you would be so young.” What I experienced is called a TIA (transient ischemic attack). It is said to be a mini-stroke which can serve as a warning before a major stroke and an opportunity to prevent one.
Heart disease is literally the lady killer, killing more women than all cancers combined. African American women have a higher risk factor than any other race. I have vowed to make it my mission to spread the word as much as possible. I don't want people to feel like they're too poor to get proper care. I want to educate people so everyone knows the signs of a stroke. I wanted to live longer than my mother... and I have!
My mother's death saved my life and now my life will be lived to save others. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. I am grateful to have a platform to honor my mother and help others.