There are some voices that remain with you either because of the smile behind the voice or the calm confidence in the massage being conveyed. You know the voice as soon as you pick up the phone and hear the warm welcome, or hear your name called out at the grocery store after church extending a sweet hello that lets you know you’ve been seen and acknowledged.
That’s the way it was with Chip Malone – “Coach” to everyone who knew and worked with him — and that’s the way it is with his wife, Cynthia. The amazing journey they took together after learning he would need a heart transplant and receiving one in 2010 is an inspiring account of faith, love, miracles, modern medicine, education and the need to share the word.
Sadly, we lost “Coach” in October 2015, but together he and Cynthia founded Chip’n Away @ Heart Disease, an organization dedicated to greater awareness that heart disease is a killer and that one in four adolescents have two or more risk factors for heart disease. Through events such as the annual Cardiac Car Show and Red Ribbons, Red Lights, the word is spreading that the Middle Georgia community is united in battling the No. 1 and No. 5 killers in America — heart disease and stroke.
“Chip and I conducted what we called high school health tours that impacted 10,000 students before his death and continues today,” Cynthia said. “Being the educator that he was, he called on a student raising her hand and responded with ‘Question right here.’ The student said that she didn’t have a question, but that she had had a heart attack!” Malone said.
To their amazement, another student, a ninth grader, said she had a pacemaker, which her teacher confirmed.
“I know it happens, but 14 year olds shouldn’t be having heart attacks . . . we’ve got to do something,” Cynthia recalls Chip saying. “Chip inspired many on and off the playing field in Houston County schools and went on to promote heart health after his heart transplant, impacting over 40,000 individuals,” she said.
After conducting research and discovering there are certain factors linked with increased risk of cardiac arrest in adolescents, the Malones focused on heart health education through peer interaction, specifically among athletes.
“Originally, Houston County middle and high school coaches, teams and cheer squads wore red shoelaces, and during basketball game timeouts and halftime, risk factors were announced,” she said.
The 2018 theme for youth awareness is “Together We Are Chip’n Away @ Heart Disease” with customized T-shirts being worn in the respective high school colors.
“Additionally, we are excited that Warner Robins and Houston County have agreed to illuminate City Hall and the County Annex on Feb. 2 in recognition of National Heart Awareness and Stroke Awareness Month 2018,” said Malone. “It really helps to get the word out about this formidable opponent that kills 630,000 people annually.”
Dates to remember are Feb. 2 National Wear Red Day; May 5 “What’s Your 120/80?” blood pressure awareness screening events; and the 7th annual CARDIAC Car Show on Nov. 3 in Warner Robins. The Cardiac Car Show will award trophies and have a kid’s zone, food and other family fun activities. The location is the Home Depot parking lot at 2620 Watson Boulevard, Warner Robins.
More information about heart disease and retired Houston County teacher/coach Chip Malone’s book “A Second Chance” is available by visitingwww.chipnaway.com.