Jump Start Your Heart Promotes Heart Health Awareness

Danielle Kelley and her husband Dr. Steven Kelley both have impressive medical backgrounds. Danielle is a Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of training and experience and Dr. Steven is a local board-certified Interventional Cardiologist. Originally from Arkansas, the couple has spread love and support through our Baton Rouge community through the creation of their nonprofit, Jump Start Your Heart (JSYH).

Formed in 2008, what spurred the creation of JSYH was the unfortunate death of 17-year-old student-athlete Shannon Veal. During a playoff game, she suddenly collapsed and died, the cause of death was found to be hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or enlarged heart, a condition that makes it difficult for blood to leave the heart. 

From its inception, Jump Start Your Heart’s mission has always been “to decrease the incidence of sudden cardiac in high school competitive athletes in the Baton Rouge and surrounding areas” and to do so, they have created an intricate system to reach local athletes and perform free cardiovascular screenings, electrocardiograms, and echocardiograms that are not included in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s participation physicals.

“We provide two non-invasive diagnostic screenings to include an electrocardiogram or EKG and echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart. In addition to this, Jump Start Your Heart donates AEDS to schools in the EBR and WBR parishes,” says Danielle. “Lastly, our educational components include sudden cardiac death, heart disease, hypertension, healthier eating choices lifestyle changes, and hypercholesterolemia.”

Due to their hard work and dedication to the community for 15 years, JSYH has screened over 7,500 student-athletes completely for free. To do so, they utilize a mobile unit and compact equipment to make sure they can move easily. Their echo machines travel securely in custom suitcases to allow every service to be available on-site.

Of course, every service they provide is thanks to their amazing sponsors, two of which include local Emergency Medical Services, who provide the EKGs during screenings, and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s Healthy BR Initiative, which has supported JSYH for a decade. Numerous other sponsors span across East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge Parishes, and their reach expands every day with the assistance of local and regional community partners.

This year, to thank their sponsors, celebrate their accomplishments, and raise awareness during Heart Awareness Month, they once again hosted their annual Valentine’s Gala on February 11. The fundraising opportunity welcomed sponsors and attendees both old and new, many of which have provided their support to the nonprofit for over a decade. The Kelleys were very grateful to celebrate their new Title Sponsor, CareSouth Medical and Dental Services’ CEO Matthew Valliere. 

In the future, JSYH will continue to provide screenings and wish to actively increase the number of persons certified in hands-on CPR and AED training. Ever since the national attention Damar Hamlin’s incident received, the nonprofit recognizes there is a huge push for more awareness and education towards heart health. To accommodate demand, they plan to expand their programs to other states across the nation.

If you would like to get involved in Jump Start Your Heart’s mission, they are always excited to accept more eager volunteers, community partners, donors, and healthcare providers like physicians, nurses, and vascular technicians. To learn more about the nonprofit or make a tax-deductible donation, visit their website

“Everyone knows of someone who plays or participates in sports. Your child, grandparents, neighbor, and family members. We all know of at least one athlete–whether high school, collegiate or professional–affected by heart disease or even sudden cardiac death,” attests Danielle. “You can save an athlete’s life and make a difference in the lives of our high school competitive athletes. Donate your talents to the community and our young future leaders of America.”

This article was originally published in April 2023.

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