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Black Tie International:
Palm Beach Heart Ball Donates Important Archives to
The Historical Society of Palm Beach County




Photos by:  Davidoff Studios


Grand Volunteer Award winners Etonella Christlieb, Joyce Vaughn, Arlette Gordon, Trudy Brekus and Alice Tarone with
Grand Volunteer Award winners Etonella Christlieb, Joyce Vaughn, Arlette Gordon, Trudy Brekus and Alice Tarone with
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown.
Exceptional Philanthropy Award winner Kathryn Vecellio and American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown

Exceptional Philanthropy Award winner Kathryn Vecellio and American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown

Clare O’Keeffe, who accepted the Legacy Award on behalf of the Esther B. O’Keeffe Foundation

Clare O’Keeffe, who accepted the Legacy Award on behalf of the Esther B. O’Keeffe Foundation

Perry Brown and John McDonagh, president and CEO of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County

Perry Brown and John McDonagh, president and CEO of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County

Anne Eisenhower, Jane Volk, John K. Volk and Trish Donnelley

 Anne Eisenhower, Jane Volk, John K. Volk and Trish Donnelley


Reception at the Johnson History Museum presents Legacy Awards and offers tours of a special exhibition celebrating the gala’s 55-year history



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.  — Nearly 100 guests attended a special reception at the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum to celebrate the illustrious history of the American Heart Association and the individuals that have contributed to the organization’s success in Palm Beach. The storied Palm Beach Heart Ball holds a place in the national spotlight as the oldest Heart Ball in the nation, and the longest continuously held charity event in Palm Beach. This year marks the event’s 55th Anniversary and to honor its legacy, the American Heart Association has donated its collection of archival material to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. The contents date back to 1956 and include original photography, invitations, news clippings, letters and other illuminating historical documents. The 60-year archival transfer is being lauded as the first of its kind in the history of the non-profit sector in Palm Beach County. The institutional and teaching significance is a pacesetter for other non-profits looking to preserve and retain their important history.

“The long and prestigious history of the Palm Beach Heart Ball is intertwined with the history of Palm Beach island,” said John McDonagh, president and CEO of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. “By acquiring the American Heart Association’s collection we will be able to preserve its story for future generations and provide the community with a unique view of the evolution of this philanthropic institution that has played such an integral role in local history.”

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association presented awards to individuals who have made a vital and significant contribution to the organization’s success. Kathryn C. Vecellio received the Exceptional Philanthropy Award for her role as chairman of the 2008 Palm Beach Heart Ball, where she helped raise a record-breaking $2.38 million for the organization – the most successful Heart Ball in the country that year. Jane Volk, wife of famed architect John L. Volk was presented the Lifetime Palm Beach Heart Ball Award; Trudy Brekus, Etonella Christlieb, Arlette Gordon, Alice Tarone and Joyce Vaughn received Grand Volunteer Awards; and The Esther B. O’Keeffe Foundation received the Legacy Award. The Foundation gave a $1 million gift to the American Heart Association, which paved the way for the opening of their new headquarters building in West Palm Beach in 2003.  There was also a special presentation of the President’s Award to Anne Eisenhower in honor of her grandparents, President Dwight D. and Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower.

“I’m delighted to honor these exceptional individuals and their contributions to the American Heart Association’s mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” said CEO Nancy Brown. “They are shining examples of the spirit and generosity that help this association make such a strong impact on so many lives.”

The Eisenhower’s have a starring role in the American Heart Association’s story. The 34th President had a significant heart attack in 1955 while in office, turning an international spotlight onto the dangers of heart disease, and prompting the First Family to support the nonprofit organization and its research. President Eisenhower’s personal physician was Dr. Paul Dudley White, one of six prominent cardiologists who founded the American Heart Association in 1924, and who is credited with saving the president’s life. Inspired by the organization and its mission, Mamie Eisenhower was the Honorary National Chairman of the Palm Beach Heart Ball in 1958 and 1959.

To date, the Palm Beach Heart Ball has raised
 more than $18 million for the American Heart Association, making it one of the top single fundraising events nationwide.
It has established itself as a driving force in advancing the
key initiatives of the American Heart Association, including significantly combating heart disease and stroke, the
No.1 and No. 3 killers of men and women in the United States
. Impressively, the American Heart Association
reached a milestone in 2009 – the organization raised more
 than $3.2 billion in research dollars to date, which has effectively changed the face of medicine globally. In addition to hundreds of other medical institutions across the country, for the years 1998 to 2008, the American Heart Association has supported the Cleveland Clinic Foundation with $32 million in research dollars; Johns Hopkins University with $44 million; Scripps with $16 million; and the University of Miami with $26 million to fund their scientists’ live-saving work. Although research is the number one priority, AHA funds local educational programs to prevent cardiovascular diseases and stroke, including CPR, school programs and educational programs for patients, caretakers and healthcare professionals.

The 55th Annual Palm Beach Heart Ball will be held at Mar-a-Lago on February 13, 2010. The chairmen are Melania Trump and Petra Levin. The International Honorary Chairman is Sir Elton John; National Honorary Chairman Donald J. Trump; Honorary Chairmen Dame Celia Lipton Farris; Patrick Park and Nathalie Fernandez De LaValle; Legacy Chairman Anne Eisenhower; Luxury Chairman Henri Barguirdjian of GRAFF; and Fashion Ambassador Michael Kors. GRAFF and MICHAEL KORS are the Grand Benefactors of the 2010 event.

For more information, please contact Samantha Whiteman, Gala Director, American Heart Association, at  (561) 697-6607  (561) 697-6607 .


The History of the Palm Beach Heart Ball


The Palm Beach Heart Ball’s history began a half century ago on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1956. The first ball was held at The Patio, and Lucius Pond Ordway was its inaugural chairman. Gypsy Rose Lee pulled the winning raffle ticket for a ‘56 Ford Thunderbird, and Jacqueline Leslie was crowned “Miss Heart.” Anna Thompson Dodge (widow of the automotive magnate Horace E. Dodge) and Florence Pritchett (wife of Palm Beach Mayor Earl E.T. Smith) served on the special heart fund and ticket committees for the gala. Tickets were $25, and the event raised a very impressive $40,840 for the American Heart Association.

The popular tradition of pre-events dates back to the very first ball. A party at the Palm Beach Polo Club on Congress Ave. in West Palm Beach was a smashing success, with a guest list that included the “who’s who” in television and film, including Lee Bowman, Helen Hayes, screenwriter and author Anita Loos and bandleader Sammy Kaye.

The 1957 Palm Beach Heart Ball was moved to the Poinciana Room of the Palm Beach Towers hotel (converted to a condominium in 1974). High-profile guests included Senator John F. and Jackie Kennedy; Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and his wife, Rose; long-time Palm Beach resident and president of the New York Yankees, Dan Topping who brought Joe DiMaggio; Rita Moreno; Ann Miller; and Anita Ekberg.

In 1958, television star Ed Sullivan served as the master of ceremonies for the Ball, and renowned artist Norman Rockwell painted the commemorative poster. His grandson, John Rockwell, is on the committee for the 2010 gala.

Palm Beach’s beloved mid-century artist, Orville Bulman did two Heart Ball program covers, one in 1964 and another in 1966.

Over the years, the Palm Beach Heart Ball developed into a premier social event, known in Palm Beach and around the country for its elegant style and sophistication. The town’s leading families have been loyal supporters through the decades, and guests and honorary chairmen have included, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford, Hugh O’Brian (Wyatt Earp), Perry Como, Bob Hope, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, legendary boxer Jack Dempsey, Peter Falk, Edith Ford, Senator Jack Kennedy; Curt Gowdy, Mary Sanford, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Frank Sinatra, Bev Smith, Esteé Lauder, Elizabeth Arden and Lilly Pulitzer. Recent and past chairmen have included Dr. Elizabeth Bowden, Rolla Campbell, Arlette B. Gordon, Kathryn C. Vecellio, Sydell L. Miller, Patrick Park, Mary Fairbanks, Sharon O’Neil, Pam Dupuis, Connie Niccolo and Mary Whitmore Fischer.


About the American Heart Association

Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. These diseases, America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers, and all other cardiovascular diseases claim nearly 870,000 lives a year. In fiscal year 2007-2008, the association invested nearly $560 million in research, professional and public education, and advocacy and community service programs to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives.

To learn more, call
 1 800 AHA USA  or visit


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