Mountain View, CA - March 27, 2012 - Over 800 of Silicon Valley's top civic and South Asian community leaders, gathered at the Santa Clara County Convention Center Saturday, March 24th, to celebrate "Scarlet Night," the fourth annual fundraising gala of the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital. The event pushed the Center past its annual goal of raising $300,000, generating more than $250,000 from ticket sales, individual donations, auction proceeds and corporate sponsorships to support the Center's work to end the epidemic of heart disease among South Asians. Equally important, it raised awareness of just how critical this work has become.
Dr. Abraham Verghese, acclaimed author and Stanford physician who delivered the keynote speech, spoke of his own awakening to the prevalence of heart disease in the South Asian community, and how the South Asian Heart Center's "science-based" approach won his support. His remarks emphasized South Asians' unique needs when it comes to prevention. "If South Asians were to follow the diet through which Bill Clinton has achieved such exceptional results - extremely low in fat and carbs - it would be completely wrong for them, as that type of diet is not suitable for the South Asian genetic makeup. That is why a place like the South Asian Heart Center is so critical. It is focused on the particular issues that affect this population."
Emmy Award-winning NBC TV news anchor Raj Mathai said his own family members experienced the devastating effects of heart disease at an early age, which is one reason he agreed to emcee the event. "This isn't just an event, it is an eye opening experience," he said. "What the South Asian Heart Center is doing for the Bay Area South Asian community is tremendous. It's now our responsibility to get tested."
One of the evening's most poignant moments came when Ashish Mathur, executive director of the Center, asked those who personally have been affected by heart disease, including through a family member or close friend, to stand up. Nearly everyone in the room responded.
The impact the disease has had on the community was emphasized through comments of the speakers. Scarlet Night co-chair Rita Sharma recounted how her father suffered a fatal heart attack during an intercontinental air trip. "My father was a cardio-thoracic surgeon --and he had no idea that he had the disease!" she said. Co-chair Poornima Kumar also watched her father suffer a heart attack early in life. "The prevention and timely intervention offered by the South Asian Heart Center can make a huge impact on our health," she said. "We do not need to be helpless victims of our genes."
In spite of its serious message, there were plenty of ways to enjoy the evening, including a casino, a silent auction of collection-worthy wines and autographed copies of Dr. Verghese's bestselling "Cutting for Stone," and music, dance and comedy acts, topped off with a live auction and dancing to DJ Salim.
The delicious, mostly vegetarian meal, prepared by Amber India Restaurant's Executive Chef Vittal Shetty, illustrated how meals can be brimming with flavorful appeal and nutrition while avoiding unhealthy fats and sugars. Each dish included significant amounts of nutrient-rich vegetables, underlining the message of the day: "eat more vegetables." The posters at the winter vegetable soup serving stations declared, "Have you had your vegetables today? How about in a soup?"
For the Center's earliest supporters and volunteers, the night represented a "coming of age." Nancy K. Bugwadia, MS, RD, CNSC, chairperson of the South Asian Heart Center's Nutrition Committee, said, "I've been associated with the Center for the past five years and it's wonderful to see its phenomenal growth and the awareness of heart disease it has created in the South Asian community. What inspires me to continue is the passion I see here--to fight and win the battle against this epidemic."
The Scarlet Night lead sponsor was the Silicon Valley Memory Clinic. Other top sponsors included Anthem eHome and Loan, Headstrong, PNG Jewelers, St. Jude Medical and Zojio Technologies. Additional sponsors included Building Kidz School, Farmers Insurance Group, Medtronic, New York Life, Pannu Dental Group, and Radio Zindagi.
"It's hard to express the gratitude and satisfaction those of us who work at the Center feel at seeing the groundswell of support at this event," said Mathur. "It's the realization of a dream, but we cannot take it for granted. There is still so much more to do."