Around and about: Gala with heart raises $400,000 for research -
Published Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:16 pm
Around and about: Gala with heart raises $400,000 for research

Raising money and raising awareness.

That's what the Omaha Heart Ball is all about, said Carol Russell, honorary chairman of the event with her husband, Rick.

More than 600 people attended the 25th annual American Heart Association event Feb. 2 at La Vista Embassy Suites. “Heart Goes to the Silver Screen” was the theme for the black-tie benefit that raised $400,000 toward heart disease and stroke research.

Carol Russell had a very personal reason for serving as honorary chairwoman. She underwent triple bypass surgery several years ago, and her mother had a similar surgery 33 years ago. Russell said her recovery from the surgery was much quicker than her mother's.

“What the heart association does and the research that they do impacted my life and made my procedure so much easier,” she said.

The event included a silent and live auction, dinner and program and concluded with dancing at the Pulse Party, with live music from On The Fritz.

Ian Johnson and Isaac Oldridge were crowned the Heart Ball King and Prince. Both were born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and underwent open heart surgery within their first few days of life.

Also presented were participants of the association's Sweetheart program.

“The Sweetheart Program of the American Heart Association provides educational and social activities for the young women as it grooms them as advocates for heart health. The girls spend a year participating in several activities like a CPR and AED training to a Health and Fitness Day,” said Kristen Waters, director of communications for Nebraska American Heart Association.

The 2013 Sweethearts are: Leslie Atkinson, daughter of Todd and Susan Atkinson, Brownell-Talbot; Sophie Clark, daughter of Fred and Melanie Clark, Westside High School; Maria Corpuz, daughter of Dr. Ralph and Susan Corpuz, Marian High School; Juliann Hellman, daughter of Jason and Courtney Hellman, Westside; Michaela Higgins, daughter of Tommy and Donna Higgins, Brownell-Talbot; Ellie Kroeger, daughter of Terry and Jackie Kroeger, Westside; Angie Murthy, daughter of Dr. Krishna Murthy and Mena Shivnauth, Brownell-Talbot; Rebecca Olson, daughter of Dr. Charles and Karen Olson, Millard West; Rachel Recker, daughter of Dr. Robert and Elizabeth Recker, Duchesne Academy; Sadie Rich, daughter of James and Jennifer Rich, Brownell-Talbot; Emma Russell, daughter of Jim and Kathleen Russell, Duchesne Academy; Maren Stone, daughter of Peter and Dr. Marika Stone, Westside; and Katie Zheng, daughter of Dr. Jialin Zheng and Dr. Gwen Zhou, Brownell-Talbot.

* * *

One is a popular local design blogger and the other is one of Omaha's leading floral and event designers, and together the talented duo will head the 10th annual Lauritzen Gardens Antique Show this September. Jan Vrana, the blogger, and Kyle Robino, the designer, gathered their committee members at a Jan. 29 kick-off event at the gardens.

The event, which will celebrate a “Decade of Treasures at the Garden,” will be held Sept. 26-29.

Speakers and special guests for the event: Carolyne Roehm, designer, tastemaker and author of 11 books on gardening and entertaining, will speak at a luncheon Sept. 27; Kathryn Ireland, author and one of the featured designers on Bravo's “Million Dollar Decorators,” will speak at a brunch Sept. 28; Eddie Ross, lifestyle expert and former Martha Stewart Living editor, will attend a cocktails and collectibles event Sept. 27; and Danielle Rollins, contributing editor of Veranda and author, will speak at a lecture Sept. 29.

“Kyle and I hardly knew each other when we agreed to chair this event together. Luckily, we quickly discovered we could not be more compatible,” said Vrana.

Vrana is the author of The French Tangerine blog (, which shares her take on interiors, gardens, art, travel and more.

Robino has owned Old Market Habitat for the past 19 years, where she has designed flowers, events and weddings across the area. A past chairwoman of the Ak-Sar-Ben Women's Ball Committee, she has been involved with the Lauritzen Gardens show for the past eight years.

For more information about the show, which will feature more than 30 antique dealers from across the country, go to

* * *

The 19th annual Girls Nite Out drew more than 600 women and a few brave men Jan. 31 to the Mutual of Omaha Dome. The event, which featured comedian Karith Foster, raised more than $75,000.

The Girls Nite Out committee was lead by a team of mothers, daughters and daughters-in-law. General chairwomen were Cathi Arnold, Tara Arnold, Taylor Kerschke, Dawn Dinsdale, Alison Johnson, Paige Ritter, Sheena Dinsdale, Darlene Mueller and Leslie Mueller. Sherrye Hutcherson was honorary chairwoman.

“For the past several years, the general chairmen of Girls Inc. Girls Nite Out have had the pleasure of working with their daughters and daughters-in-law. It has been a fun way to introduce them to volunteerism in our community, meet new people and share something that their mothers and mothers-in-law are passionate about,” said Cathi Arnold.

“Karith's humor provided our audience with a rib-tickling, laugh-a-minute program for nearly an hour. Her content was relatable to every age attending the event,” said Dawn Dinsdale.

Along with the laughs the evening featured shopping, cocktails and dinner.

Kelley Stuckey and Heather Russell were announced as two of the general chairwomen for the Girls Inc. Girls Nite Out for 2014. The two will select a third general chairwoman to join them.

* * *

Ashley Judd, actress, advocate, author and child abuse survivor, will be the featured speaker at the sixth annual Project Harmony “Speaking of Children” luncheon March 6 at the CenturyLink Center. “Speaking of Children” is presented annually to raise awareness in the fight against child abuse. The luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. Professionals from throughout the Midwest will participate in morning and afternoon training sessions conducted by local and national experts.

Todd and Betiana Simon are honorary chairmen, and Judi Finkle and Vicki Wampler are chairwomen.

A patron party will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 5 at Todd and Betiana Simon's home. Party co-chairmen are Rae and Bill Dyer and Stacy and Bruce Simon.

Funds raised by the annual event support services provided by Project Harmony to children from throughout eastern Nebraska and southwest Iowa. In 2012, Project Harmony provided investigative, medical and referral services to more than 2200 children.

For more information on Project Harmony or to register for “Speaking of Children,” visit



Murder Mystery at the Castle, Joslyn Castle Trust, Joslyn Castle, or 402-595-2199


Carnival of Love, Heartland Family Service, or call Kerri at 402-552-7426

The Magic Flute Gala, Opera Omaha, Kaneko, Tom Chandler at 402-346-4398 ext. 111

FEB. 22

Fandango: All-Stars, Lutheran Family Services, Champions Run, or Cheryl Murphy at 402-661-3138

FEB. 23

Wine Event Nebraska, 2013 Easter Seals Nebraska, Embassy Suites La Vista, 800-650-9880

16th annual Promise Gala Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, CenturyLink Center, 402-397-2873


Cruise Away to the Caribbean, Stephen Center Inc., Champions Run, Angie Bingham at

Irish Fest: Shamrock On!, Catholic Charities Omaha, CenturyLink Center,

MARCH 2 & 3

American Girl Fashion Show, Junior League of Omaha, Happy Hollow Club,

MARCH 6 & 7

Table Art “A Knight and Day of Excellence,” Omaha Symphony Guild,

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