Lead with Your Heart
Teen Abigail Davis makes volunteering a way of life
By Dwain Hebdads
Abigail Davis may not yet be out of high school, but she’s already made a difference in the lives of countless people who have benefited from her community activism. The 17-year-old has a passion for heart health and for families dealing with life-threatening diseases in children.
“I have never learned more than by going to volunteer and going to help out my community,” she said. “They have taught me so much by giving back to the people that have given so much to me.”
As a sophomore, Davis was an American Heart Association Sweetheart, a service program that educates young women on issues of heart health and heart disease. Little did she know how personal those lessons would become in the form of her grandfather Gary Davis.
“He wasn’t really raised up in a home where they taught him how to be heart healthy,” she said. “He had a sedentary lifestyle and he didn’t eat as healthy of foods as he should have. He also smoked. All three of those caused heart disease for him later on and, unfortunately, he died last year.”
Davis channeled her energies into making a difference for others. She created HEART, a public awareness campaign that stresses health history, eating right, active lifestyle, reducing stress and transforming habits in support of heart health. She’s delivered her message to schools, seniors groups, even the Oklahoma state legislature and reached even more people through her monthly blog via the American Heart Association in six states.
“I always like to tell people that my platform chose me,” she said. “I didn’t choose for heart disease to run in my family, but when people see a young person advocating for something so special to them it really makes them wonder. If I am only 17 years old and I am so passionate about this, then it really does mean something to me and it means I really want to help my community.”
“But it also means that they can also get involved and they can do stuff to protect themselves. That’s what makes a big difference.”
Davis followed HEART work by getting involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Arkansas. While serving an internship there, she conceived the idea for and co-chaired the organizing committee of Silly Sock Shuffle, a benefit walk that raised more than $12,000.
“I was the youngest person to be a co-chair for them, which was such an honor,” she said. “We wore our silly socks and, of course, I had to wear mine with crowns on them and they were bedazzled. It was just a fun walk that we’re already planning for next year; it’s going to be an annual thing.”
Activism has brought with it recognition for the Little Rock Christian Accademy student. She was named Miss Metro Outstanding Teen, awarded through the Miss America organization. In June, she competed in the Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen pageant where she was awarded top 15 and recognized with a leadership award and Teens in Action for her volunteerism and work to support her community service platform.
All of which is nice, of course, but pales in comparison to what she’d like to inspire in others around getting involved.
“My generation is a generation of technology, but I also think that we are really wanting to give back,” she said. “We are eager to get plugged in, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to get plugged in. I know that so many organizations are coming out with new ways of technology to make it easier for teenagers to volunteer with them.”
“It’s so important that we focus on organizations that need our help because many organizations in Arkansas are needing volunteers. It’s important to reach out and try and connect with them because it can make a real impact in our community.”