JACKSON TWP.  The 2018 Canton Go Red for Women luncheon on Feb. 2 was centered on superSHEroes with participants "gathering together to collectively wipe out heart disease and stroke."

The luncheon is a fundraiser that celebrated its 10th anniversary. It was held at the Conference Center at Kent State Stark for eight years and at the Canton Museum of Art last year. This year, it was at La Pizzaria, 3656 Dressler Road.

Executive Director of the American Heart Association Jenny Peshina said the money raised this year will go to help provide CPR Anytime training kits to 50 Girls on the Run coaches. The coaches will be trained and then they can train the girls in the program.

"We generally raise around $100,000 and we’re on track to raise more than that this year," Peshina said.

The funds are raised through a silent auction, the luncheon tickets and a special appeal to open your heart asking participants to make a cash denotation during the luncheon.

"There are many local survivors here today and we’ll be showing several of their video stories during lunch. And, all of the food served today is heart healthy," Peshina said.

One of the heart disease survivors was 11-year-old Ava Golias from Wooster. She was there with her family, including her twin sister, Ellie.

"This is my first time attending the Go Red for Women lunch, I’m happy to be here and to have my video shown today," Ava said.

Ava’s parents, Brent and Lori, said that often times one of an identical twin doesn’t form right and that was the case with Ava. She was born with a congenital heart defect that required an open-heart procedure when she was nine-months-old. She’s also had a heart catheterization with stent placement at five years old and a valve replacement at seven years old.

"She participates in sports such as soccer, softball and gymnastics and competed in the YMCA Gymnastics National in Savannah," Brent said.

Her parents said that Ava will always be a heart patient and may require more valve replacements in the future.

The keynote speaker for the event was a business owner and author, Julie Wilkes. She is the North American Wellness Lead for Accenture, CEO and owner of Seven Studios, a published author, life coach and motivational speaker.

Wilkes was selected as one of the "25 Remarkable Women" from Role Model Magazine and one of 12 Women You Should Know in Central Ohio. Wilkes told her own heart disease survivor story by telling the audience she was born without a heartbeat.

"The day I was born, I didn’t have the strength to survive on my own, but my mother held me and talked to me and gave me the strength, that’s the power of relationships," Wilkes said. "The doctors told my mother I only had maybe hours to survive. Those hours turned into days, then weeks and then months. When I was six months old, they called me a miracle but doubted I’d live to be a teenager."

Wilkes lived each day as if it were her last. She ran her first marathon at age 25, earned her master’s degree and has a successful career. Wilkes offered the following three tips to those attending the luncheon:

- Remember that what you do matters, the little and the big things.

- Set yourself up for success. She said that we are able to rewire our brains the way we want at any age.

- Soften your heart. Every day is a new opportunity.