Charting a Future Course: Election of National Officers and Regional Directors

By Lisa Horn

Vision. Innovation. Tenacity. These are just a few qualities that good leaders possess. As The Mended Hearts, Inc. continues to evolve, grow and thrive, it is essential that our national officers and regional directors are individuals who are not only passionate about our mission but are also able to see future obstacles and opportunities so we can steer clear and chart a successful course.

The following candidates for The Mended Hearts® and Mended Little Hearts® national officer and regional director positions have said “yes!” to the call to serve and lead our organization. The next two years are going to be busy with our organizational goals of expanding reach, creating holistic programs, building awareness, recruiting advocates, fostering fundraising and increasing diversity — and this qualified group of volunteers is up for the challenge. Get to know a little about them on the following pages.

Denise Duch Widzgowski

The Mended Hearts, Inc. President

Denise Duch Widzgowski is currentlyThe Mended Hearts, Inc. executive vice- president. She has focused on heart disease for many years since it is prevalent in her family.

A heart transplant in 2013 halted Widzgowski’s business career but launched her mission to “pay it forward.” After moving to Florida in 2016, Widzgowski was introduced to Mended Hearts and joined the board of Chapter 206 Palm Beach County, where she became an Accredited Visitor and was elected president in 2020.

Additionally, since 2019, Widzgowski has served as an assistant regional director, an MHI national board member, chairperson of the MHI Nominating and Election committees, and member of the MHI Bylaws Committee and Ad-Hoc Committees for Young Mended Hearts and the 2023 Conference.

In 2020, Widzgowski was presented the MHI National Volunteer of the Year Award.Additionally, she was nominated by her hospital and awarded as a finalist for HCA’s Frist Humanitarian Award.

In Widzgowski’s business career, she was responsible for a $70 million enterprise, which grew through her leadership in fiscal management, marketing, talent recruiting and developing partnerships from local to national levels. Widzgowski uses these skills as she dedicates her time to MHI.

“It’s great to be alive…and to help others” is far more than an MHI motto; it is her personal motto and a way of life. Widzgowski is grateful for your consideration of her as the next MHI president and looks forward to continuing to serve MHI for many more years to come.

She and her husband of 36 years, Tom, reside in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Lea Parker

Mended Hearts Vice President

Not everyone is lucky enough to know their life’s purpose, but Lea Parker certainly does. Heart disease has affected her family for generations.

When Parker had open heart surgery in 2016 to replace her aortic valve and repair an aneurysm, a Mended Hearts Accredited Visitor came
to her hospital room. The visitor encouraged healing and gave her the strength to face the challenges of being an adult with congenital heart disease.

>Her path was clear. She joined her local chapter and started visiting patients and families to provide hope to others. Parker’s passion for the mission strengthens each day.

 

Parker currently serves as president of Chapter 362 in Sugarland, Texas, an assistant regional director in the Southwest region, and an appointed board member. In addition to virtual visiting, she visits at Memorial Hermann SW Heart and Vascular Institute as well as Houston Methodist West Hospital. She also serves on the Patient and Family Advisory Council for the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Houston Methodist Hospital.

 

>Recently retired from a 35-year career running operations for a large travel management organization, Parker is committed to lending her time, skills and talents to an organization that helped her when she needed it most — Mended Hearts. Parker believes being a heart patient and a volunteer has framed her life’s purpose, which is to help patients and families on heart journeys.

 

Parker lives near Houston with her husband, Joe, and they enjoy spending time with their daughters and granddaughters.

 


Amanda Stewart

Mended Little Hearts Vice-President

Behavior Analyst Amanda Stew- art’s world was turned upside down when her second son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at two days old in the NICU. On that day, she decided to do everything she could to raise awareness about this diagnosis so that not another mother would be unaware of the existence of CHDs.

Stewart was born in a small town in West Virginia but was raised in Western New York. She moved back to West Virginia for her undergraduate degree in psychology before settling in Pittsburgh.

It was there that she honed her profession in the field of applied behavior analysis by completing her master’s degree in applied developmental psychology. She married her partner in crime and has three fantastic kids as well as one energetic hound dog.

Today, Stewart works full-time at a special needs school serving students ages 6-21 with various mental health disorders. While this job keeps her on her toes, it allows her to work with a variety of people and grow professionally and personally.

Stewart formally served as the central regional director for Mended Little Hearts. She has been a member in the organization since 2010, served as a group coordinator since 2013 and held the regional director position from 2017 to 2022. Stewart joined The Mended Hearts, Inc. board in 2020 and has been proud to be included in the core of the organization.

A witty and dedicated individual, Stewart brings a high level of passion and humor to any situation. It is these skills that Stewart will use to help the organization progress and expand its abilities to support the CHD community at large.

Ronda Adamo

Mended Little Hearts Central Regional Director

Ronda Adamo was born in Kentucky but was raised nearly her entire life in Northeast Indiana. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and is currently the plant manager for Ashley Industrial Molding, overseeing daily operations for multiple manufacturing facilities in North America.

Adamo is married to her best friend and partner in crime for life. Her husband, Bill, has been an active participant in her involvement in MLH. Adamo is a mother of three grown children and 10 grandchildren. She lost one infant son to CHD in 1988. Two of her grandchildren were born with CHDs, which has created a drive and passion to assist families who are affected by CHD.

Since 2016, Adamo has become increasingly active in MLH, beginning as a volunteer in support of the Indianapolis chapter. Since her first point of contact, fundraising and supporting the organization in its efforts to supply Bravery Bags became a growing goal.

In 2017, Adamo took a formal role with the Indianapolis chapter and has worn multiple hats since then. These include social media, Bravery Bag, fund- raising, welcoming, assistant lead, lead and treasurer roles.

During Adamo’s tenure with MLH Indy, she has participated in activities and leadership efforts that have seen the organization grow exponentially. During her first year with MLH Indy, the group was able to supply approximately 25 Bravery Bags annually. Since then, the Indy Chapter now supplies 300+ Bravery Bags and fully supports the Bravery Chest Program for Riley Hospital for Children.

Mike Buffington

Mended Hearts Mid-Atlantic Regional Director

My name is Mike Buffington. I am a retired IT professional with 31 years of project management experience in the U.S. and Canada related to financial systems, HR/payroll systems and executive coordination of government audit compliance.

While this sounds very intense, it is not nearly as intense as the quintuple bypass I had in 2018. It was during my rehab sessions that I found out about Mended Hearts and attended my first chapter meeting. Soon, I received my hospital accreditation and made a couple of patient visits, and I was hooked. Seeing the look of hope on a patient’s face when they find out that not that long ago you were in their shoes is priceless.

As a chapter vice-president and a Mid-Atlantic assistant regional director, I have found new opportunities to encourage and assist volunteers as well as stay in touch with patients and caregivers when possible.

My goal as a regional director would be to increase the footprint of encouragement and assist growth of the Mended Hearts organization. In addition to Mended Hearts, I am a volunteer coordinator at my church and a grandpa. In my spare time, I love going on cruises with my wife.

Maryann Mayhood

Mended Little Hearts Mid-Atlantic Regional Director

Maryann Mayhood began serving as the lead coordinator for the Mended Little Hearts of Washington, D.C., group when her son Joseph was less than a year old. Now at 8 years old, he is an extremely active kid that plays all kinds of sports and is an inquisitive learner, a dinosaur expert and a wonderful reader heading into second grade, with no medical restrictions.

Mayhood has helped grow the group, which serves two hospitals in the D.C. area, advocates for CHD kids on a federal level and helps fundraise for Children’s National & INOVA Children’s Hospitals along with The Mended Hearts, Inc.

She has helped produce many educational programs for her group, serves on multiple committees for the organization and is an active member of the MHI board of directors.

In her professional life, Mayhood carries an impressive resume spanning a 25-year career serving all aspects of residential and commercial landscape design. Her knowledge and love of design is executed thoughtfully in every project in which she is involved.

Notable career highlights include design projects at the National Gallery of Art and extensive involvement in
the renovation of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C. Mayhood has used her professional design expertise for MHI by helping create several logos, media and print content for the organization.

She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with husband Ross, a real estate professional, son Joseph and 4-year-old yellow Labrador, Winston.

Robert Hoffman

em>Mended Hearts Northeast Regional Director

My journey into Mended Hearts began in December 1997 when I underwent double bypass and mitral valve replacement surgery at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.

I was visited by Mended Hearts visitor Marvin Keyser, who gave my wife and I the assurance that I would be OK. This was important to my wife, as we had a 10- and 12-year-old at home. Here we are 25 years later this December.

I joined Mended Hearts in 1998 and began visiting shortly after. I became visiting chair at St. Francis. I have served Chapter 009 as treasurer, vice-president and, today, as secretary.

When the Northeast regional director position became vacant due to the death of Frank Cecco, Marvin encouraged me to run. In 2019, I was appointed national executive vice-president to fill a resignation. In 2021, I ran for my first full term as Northeast regional director.

As Northeast regional director, I have started four new chapters and am currently working on three additional ones. I hosted one regional meeting in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was a top fundraiser in World of Support raising more than $2,600. I am a PAN visitor.

This is a critical time for Mended Hearts, and in my second term I hope to restore many of the 25 chapters in the Northeast to good health. I hope
to open new chapters and host chapter officer meetings on my Mended Hearts Zoom account.

This year, I became a grandfather for the first time. I am proud of my two children who have both distinguished themselves in the business world. Both my son and daughter are graduates of Harvard Business School.

I seek your support in running for this office.

Ray Trapp

Mended Hearts Rocky Mountain Regional Director

I am a lifetime member of Mended Hearts and have been involved in the organization since my heart issue in 2013, holding positions such as Accredited Visitor, caller, officer and planning.

The ability of Mended Hearts to support the needs of individuals that are looking to improve their lifestyle is important to me. My current position as president of the Boise Chapter 380 and Rocky Mountain regional director has also given me the opportunity to see the many needs/concerns of the other chapters and individuals in the region.

I come from a business background, beginning with a family manufacturing business in Chicago and then eventually moving to Idaho 40 years ago to work in management/sales with a $4 billion private corporation.

I am married with four grown children and six grandchildren, and I have been active in many local organizations such
as Little League, heart walks, fundraising, parish council and cardiac-rehab education programs.

My vision for the Rocky Mountain region will be to continue developing an environment where all the chapters and members can be heard and are working together to reach MHI goals. It is important that chapters know the direction and goals of MHI, and that their support and input is needed to meet these MHI goals. The mission of MHI, which includes Mended Hearts, Young Mended Hearts and Mended Little Hearts, is important to me.

Together we can create new growth and focus in this area. The direction during my first year as regional director has been the rebuilding of the program in many areas and keeping it moving in a positive direction. I would like to continue this effort in order to help build and support the many requirements/concerns of the Rocky Mountain chapters.

Ed Wainwright

>Mended Hearts Southern Regional Director

My Name is Ed Wainwright. I have been an active Mended Hearts member in Chapter 364 for 12 years. My chapter has shared our belief in Mended Hearts with seven cluster meetings and one Regional National Conference. I have been a Southern region assistant regional director for three years and look forward to our future challenges in growth and expanding our support opportunities.

I received an AAS in marine technology, working in aquaculture growing oysters, shrimp and clams. My active duty was 18 months on the Intrepid CVS-11 in the Gulf of Tonkin. Completing my BA, I taught biology and general science for four years. I loved working at Disney World on Main Street, monorails and then full time in purchasing for 20 years. I next worked at Lockheed Martin SEMAC purchasing computers of all sizes, their software and managing the maintenance contracts.

My heart adventure began in 2002, and I lived with heart failure until 2009 when I received a heart transplant. Since that event, I have benefited from the support and ability to share with the Mended Hearts community.

I look forward to joining the other regional directors to help shape and guide our growth in the years to come. Mended Hearts, Inc. has made some great strides in the first transition to Albany, Georgia. During the pandemic, we have continued to grow, and now we are well on our way to becoming an international organization without forgetting our roots of supporting heart patients and caregivers from birth through retirement.

Catherine Lobien

Mended Little Hearts Southern Regional Director

Catherine Lobien joined the Mended Little Hearts family in 2014 after her youngest daughter was diagnosed with a critical complex congenital heart defect. Developing a passion for helping families in similar situations, she took on the role of lead coordinator for Mended Little Hearts of Orlando in May 2017 and has led the group since.

As the leader of MLH Orlando, Lobien has been the guest speaker at Mended Hearts meetings and various local aware- ness and fundraising events. Lobien delivers Bravery Bags to her supporting hospital as well as providing basic peer- to-peer support. She joined fellow MHI members as a table exhibitor during the 2018 ACC conference in Orlando.

She has been the Mended Little Hearts Southern regional director since September 2020 and has provided sup- port to the MLH groups in the southern region. Lobien joined the MHI board of directors in 2020 and serves on the MLH steering committee.

Lobien holds a Florida state teaching certificate and is currently inspiring the young minds in her first grade class. She resides in Central Florida with her husband and two children.

Candida Schendel

Mended Little Hearts Southwest Regional Director

Candida Schendel has been married to her high school sweetheart for 26 years, and together they have two beautiful children, Caleb (17) and Gracelyn (9). She was first intro- duced to The Mended Hearts Inc. and the Mended Little Hearts program in the summer of 2007. Her son Caleb had been born with a congenital heart defect and was about to turn 2 years old.

Prior to this, Schendel and her husband had gone through the journey not knowing many others like them. By August of 2007, she had helped charter the first Mended Little Hearts group in Texas, Mended Little Hearts of San Antonio.

During her time in San Antonio, she filled various roles in leadership for her local group. Her family later relocated to the Houston area, and she stepped down from her lead coordinator role.

Not long after that, she became the first MLH assistant regional director for the Southwest region and then became the MLH regional director for the Southwest region.

Schendel is hoping to continue for one more term as MLH regional director of the Southwest region. She would like to see Mended Little Hearts groups continue to grow in active membership and education as well as continue to expand their Bravery Bag Program.

Nicole Sanchez

Mended Little Hearts Western Regional Director

My name is Nicole Sanchez, I am run- ning for regional director in the Western region for Mended Little Hearts. I have been a member of this organization since 2012 and am currently the lead coor- dinator of Mended Little Hearts of the Bay Area. I have also been the Western regional director for Mended Little Hearts for the past eight years, and now I am proud to be on the board of directors for The Mended Hearts, Inc.

I was born with a congenital heart defect called Tricuspid Atresia (HRHS). I have had three surgeries, two of which were open heart, and multiple cardiac catheterizations. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who had a CHD, but when I joined MLH, I felt like a whole new world opened up to me, and I knew I had to be a part of it.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to help others born with a heart defect and their families. I believe Mended Little Hearts has a great future, and I am so excited to be part of it.

I live in the Bay Area, California, with my husband and two beautiful children. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I worked in music licensing and royalties for 10 years. I love volunteering, writing, listening to podcasts and traveling. I am so passionate about growing Mended Little Hearts so that, one day, every family who is affected by CHD will feel the love and support of this wonderful organization.

Cast Your Vote

Online voting opens January 1, 2023 and closes February 28, 2023.

National members will receive an electronic ballot for their specific region, which includes all executive officer candidates and regional directors for their region only. These ballots will be tabulated by region, resulting in one vote per region.

Chapters and groups vote collectively. Members of a whole chapter/group must agree on the candidate they’ll vote for, and the leader of the chapter/ group submits the electronic ballot.

The chapter/group only votes for the regional director in their region plus all executive committee members.

Results will be announced in early March 2023, and the elected officers will be sworn in on Friday, June 23 during the opening ceremony of the 2023 MHI International Education & Empowerment Conference.

Interested in getting involved in MHI leadership? We’re always looking for help. To learn about open volunteer positions within the organization, contact Mandy Sandkuhler at mandy.sandkuhler@mendedhearts.org.