NORMAL - Normal West sophomore Taylor Wallarab has a heart for helping spread the word about the school's Red Out event with Normal Community.
That's because she was born with a heart defect and appreciates how the American Heart Association has helped her and others.
"I've had heart issues since I was born. I thought it was really eye-opening to have people buy t-shirts that supports people that have heart issues," Wllarab said.
Wallarab had surgery when she was two years old to repair a hole in her heart. Now at age 16, the aspiring teacher wants to teach her classmates that no one is immune from heart problems.
"I really this is in important that you can actually teach kids that kids actually do have health issues and they are exactly the same as you," Wallarab said.
The two Unit 5 high schools are teaming up to raise money to fight heart disease in advance of their Jan. 29 varsity basketball game at Normal Community in the event that the AHA has themed "Rock and Beat."
Anyone who donates $10 or more before or during the game gets a 'Red Out' t-shirt. The effort raised $3,900 as a first-time event last year.
Normal West special ed teacher Chris King said the goal is to top $5,000 between the two schools this year.
"We did it just to kind of spark the rivalry but also to get both high schools involved in a great cause, which is just to raise awareness and funding for the American Heart Association," King said.
Heyworth High School has a Red Out scheduled for Friday, Feb. 1 in a boys basketball game with Lexington starting at 5:30 p.m.
Bloomington Junior High and High School will be hosting a Red Out on Saturday, Feb. 2nd at the BHS vs. Manual game at 7pm.
AHA Youth Marketing Director Jenna Cicciarelli Wiesner said Red Outs give the assocation a new audience with which they can share a life-saving mission.
"Heart disease and stroke are the number one and number three killer in our country and we just cna't let up on the research and education that it needed to build healthier lives," Wiesner said. "The students on the high school level are really able to do most of the planning and execution of the events and it's wonderful to see them spreading awareness throughout the community."
The AHA is also marking its 10-year Go Red For Women movement with its annual Wear Red Day on Feb. 1.