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Hearts Start Racing

Apr 25, 2013, 12:56 PM EDT

Local men gathered in Purcell Pavilion Wednesday night to play ball as part of Coach Brey's Tip-Off for Heart event. Local men gathered in Purcell Pavilion Wednesday night to play ball as part of Coach Brey's Tip-Off for Heart event.

Around this time last year, I had a minor heart attack. I’m sure many soon-to-be college grads across the nation experience some form of a panic attack in the days leading up to their commencement ceremonies, but few probably do because their dad doesn’t want to come to the ceremony itself.

Now granted my dad had some fair points, as his travels involved a cross-country flight, hotel, and possibly lugging my two brothers down to Fort Lauderdale Florida as well. Towards the end of a very (and I do mean, very) long phone call, I put my foot down, said, “HELL YES YOU’RE COMING”, ignited a debate about the possibility of hell being a swear word, and finished up with him saying “Ok I’ll book my ticket tomorrow, but I’ve got to go now I’m going on a bike ride tonight.” Proof, once again, that daughters will always win battles with their dads, especially over the phone.

The bike ride is the second-most significant part of that story, as my dad didn’t mean a piddly little ride around our neighborhood but rather an 80-mile excursion around the northwest suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, where my family lived. Cycling at a target pace of 20mph two to three times a week was how my 54-year old dad chose to keep his heart healthy, which was a good thing for all the heart palpitation-worthy moments my brothers and I put him through over the years (most related to learning how to drive in the Motor City).

My dad did more than bike ride across metro Detroit to get his blood pumping though, and he was known to dabble in bookstore basketball during his years in the ‘Bend. As a class of ’79 grad from Our Lady’s University he followed the Irish teams religiously ever year, and last night he would have felt right at home in Purcell Pavilion when head coach Mike Brey hosted the first ever “Tip-Off for Heart” event in conjunction with his partnership with the American Heart Association’s Men of Heart campaign.

“We’ve done a lot with cancer in this town and I’ve been here thirteen years. I think we can spread the wealth,” Brey said courtside before the event began. Men of Heart is an initiative launched by the American Heart Association to bring men across the community together to raise awareness about heart disease – currently the #1 killer in America – and educate them on how to prevent it.

Just to give you a quick rundown, heart disease is responsible for 2,500 deaths per day. Ryan Johnson, a local American Heart Association worker, said Tip-Off for Heart was different from other campaigns in that it’s main focus was on men in the community. The idea for Men of Heart came as a counter-part to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, which focuses on women’s heart health.

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Coach Brey addresses event participants before the afternoon breakout sessions began.

Tip-Off for Heart was the first of three events that Coach Brey will be hosting in the coming months. “This event is another offshoot of trying to start something locally, and Coach Brey was excited about partnering with the American Heart Association. We wanted to do something in the community, and basketball seemed an obvious choice so we moved forward with the idea,” said Johnson when asked how yesterday’s event came into fruition.

Starting with registration at 2pm, men ages 21 and older came to partake in several breakout sessions throughout the afternoon and were given an inside look at Notre Dame Basketball areas. ND strength coach Tony Rolinski instructed participants on healthy ways to strength train, while team nutritionist Kayla Matrunick gave a brief presentation on ways to eat heart-healthy. Director of basketball operations Harold Swanagan and assistant coach Martin Ingelsby ran participants through a series of defensive drills opposite Coach Brey’s offensive session, and Dr. M. Shakil Aslam setup shop in the Hammes Auditorium to talk about seven risk factors for heart disease.

“This event fits right in with our company’s product line and was a great tie-in with Notre Dame. We hope this is the start of a great initiative and working with Coach Brey,” said John Herzig, a representative from gold-sponsor company Bayer Aspirin. His sentiments were echoed by fellow player and local media personality Darin Pritchett, who stated, “We’ve worked with Coach Brey in his Coaches vs. Cancer events in the past, and anything that Coach Brey’s behind we’re behind 100 percent at WSBT-Radio.”

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The afternoon’s breakout sessions moved on to an evening “Half Time” reception in Club Naimoli, where a silent auction and light appetizers were served. After a “Time Out” dinner catered by Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Coach Brey said a few words about the work of the American Heart Association before bidding his guests farewell. As I looked around at the smiling faces of the decidedly “and older” event participants, I knew not only would my dad have fit right in, but he would gladly have given up one day of bike riding for an experience such as this one.

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