Dallas, TX | President’s Circle
Dan Shimer believes in results. With a successful career in finance, mergers and acquisitions under his belt including running his own capital firm, it’s clear that he knows a sound investment when he sees it. However, it wasn’t until 2016, when a cardiac catheterization saw 50% blockage in his left anterior descending artery, also known as the “widow maker,” that he started to apply this philosophy to investing in his own health as well.
“My doctor said you need to change your lifestyle, and I started to clean up my act pretty quick. I hit the treadmill to keep me moving, I eat heart healthy foods at every meal, because it’s all about buying more time,” he said. He is no stranger to how devastating the effects of heart health can be, losing both parents to heart disease. Dan credits playing oboe and other wind instruments for keeping from him smoking like the rest of his family. “Back in the 60’s I was eating hamburgers like everyone else, but that was the one habit that I never picked up,” he said. Dan’s wife Diane also lost her mother to heart disease, and both her older brother and older sister to heart attacks.
Dan admits that during his career he became accustomed to the level of stress in his life without realizing the potential effects it would have. “I’m your typical Type A guy that’s pretty much all business. I was in finance, so I was working until 9:00 every night, and yeah, I handled the stress but probably not in the best ways. It was a difficult adjustment to suddenly turn that faucet off,” he said of retiring. “When you stop doing that, it gives you a chance to find the balance in your life, and I decided that I wanted to use that extra time and energy to try to focus on making things better for other people.”
Dan sat on the board of a small business with friend Ron Haddock, and realized they shared very similar personal and family histories with heart disease. Ron was already a supporter of the American Heart Association and encouraged Dan to get involved.
“We wanted to help and make a difference,” Dan said, “but wanted to focus solely on preventable activities. Diane and I want to keep people from going through what we went through – losing family members – and we’re blessed to be in the position to do that. We’re involved in a lot of charitable organizations, but we like being able to see the results of what we’re investing in.”
When the Association approached Dan with an idea to help with a direct campaign aimed at preventative education and actionable measures, featuring Instagram influencer Tika Sumpter, he was all for it.
Tika Sumpter is best known for her roles in Mixed-ish, Tyler Perry’s The Have and Have Nots, and as Maddie Wachowski in the movie Sonic the Hedgehog, but she's also a mental health advocate, podcaster and founder of The Sugaberry multimedia network. She’s built an incredible and engaged audience on social media platforms, especially Instagram, with almost two million followers.
“We were in a situation where we could make a large contribution, and I said let’s sit down and talk about how we can spend it. Maybe it’s just a seed where we start something that’s going to grow,” he said, “but it has to be measurable, so we can go back and say, ‘that’s what we did, how can we double or triple it?’”
Working with the AHA on the campaign funded by supporters like Dan, Tika helped produce and disseminate social media content focused on the links between mental health, heart health, and overall well-being and the small actions that people can take to decrease their stress and increase their overall health. The campaign included public service announcements and interviews with E! Online and Yahoo Life to reach hundreds of millions of people over the course of several months. Dan was certainly happy with these results, and how his support was driving awareness forward.
When asked what he’d most like to see accomplished in the future as the American Heart Association moves into their Second Century, the resounding answer was a focus on earlier preventative education. “We need to do better about teaching people food and nutrition at a very basic level so people can understand how those basic choices affect their health, and how the risks they are taking will create problems for them in the future. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to continue down this path and really make an impact down the road.”