Laine Berry will be "Taking Wellness to Heart" on Saturday as she joins hundreds of other Faulkner County residents in this year's American Heart Walk, which will begin at 9 a.m. at Simon Park.
As the newly selected 2003 Mrs. Faulkner County Arkansas, Berry developed her pageant platform, "Taking Wellness to Heart," after she and her family experienced firsthand the trauma of heart disease. "I very nearly lost my greatest girlfriend, closest confidant and lifelong mentor to heart disease," Berry said as she explained how she became interested in pageants.
In 2000, her mother Cheryl Hatfield had suffered from strange symptoms for several months, yet test after test - but not one for coronary artery disease - revealed nothing that would explain those symptoms. Finally, Berry said, she and her family convinced a family practitioner to perform an arteriogram. That test revealed that Hatfield had blockages of greater than 90 percent in three arteries.
"After her triple-bypass surgery, it became my goal to learn as much about the effects of heart disease in women as possible, and what I learned frightened me," Berry said. "I wanted to speak up, to tell women how important it is for them to take care of their heart health, but how could I do that? No one would want to listen to me, just plain Laine Berry, a loan officer at a bank in Conway. That's why I decided to enter a pageant, then if I could win, I could use that title to help me spread the word about heart disease in women."
Berry participated in the 2002 state pageant, placing fourth in the selection. This year, she was invited to apply for the Mrs. Faulkner County title and was selected. She noted that participants are invited to enter the pageant, and have to send in an application; the winner is then chosen by the board of directors.
The Mrs. Faulkner County pageant is a preliminary to the Mrs. Arkansas America Pageant, which will take place on Saturday, June 7, in Horner Hall at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
The state winner will then compete for the national title on Sept. 18 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Since her mother's illness, Berry, who is the wife of Kevin Berry and also the daughter of the Rev. David Hatfield, pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church, has become an active spokesperson for the American Heart Association and is a board member of the Faulkner County chapter. In October of last year, she authored a proclamation, ratified by Gov. Mike Huckabee and read into law by the state Legislature on Oct. 24, 2002, proclaiming February to be "Women's Heart Disease Awareness Month" in Arkansas.
Discussing the upcoming state pageant, Berry noted the significance of winning the title. "As Mrs. Arkansas, I would have the voice I need to petition our national legislators to proclaim February to be 'Women's Heart Disease Awareness Month' for our entire nation," she explained.
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Also included in Berry's platform is sponsorship of "Operation Heartbeat," a program designed to strengthen the chain of survival - early access to emergency care, early defibrillation and early advanced care - to save the lives of cardiac arrest victims.
Not only does Berry's mother suffer from heart disease, Berry herself, who is 27, was diagnosed as a young woman with bypass tachycardia, or an abnormal rhythm of the heart.
But that diagnosis has not slowed her down. Not only does she work daily at her job as a loan officer for Superior Bank in Conway, she is also active in a number of community organizations, including being a member of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, the Historic Preservation Society of Conway, Conway Garden Club, Conway Chapter of Republican Women and Conway Community Arts Association. She is also a board member of the Conway Area Business Expo and Conway Old Home Owners Association and is a founding member of Females in Motion, a club dedicated to helping women advance in the workplace and society through better communications skills.
Berry is a graduate of Conway High School and the University of Central Arkansas where she was a theater major. Her hobbies include ballroom dancing, painting, gardening and writing .
In addition to her family's support, Berry is sponsored in the Mrs. Arkansas pageant by Superior Bank and Coats Appraisal Service in Conway. Additional sponsors are welcome; those interested may call Berry at 327-9380.
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