Daughter of President and Mrs. Betty Ford Joins Starting Hearts
in Mission to Save Precious Lives
Starting Hearts is honored to announce the addition of Susan Ford Bales to the nonprofit’s Board of Directors as its Honorary Chair. “Susan has been a lifelong and passionate advocate for causes that have touched her personally and we are so very honored for her support and endorsement of our mission to save precious lives as our new Honorary Chair,” said Lynn Blake, founder of Starting Hearts and herself a sudden cardiac arrest survivor. Blake continued, “Susan’s story of survival and triumph is truly inspirational. While cardiac arrest is our nation’s biggest killer, it is virtually unknown to our citizenry. Susan’s participation will help us greatly to bring public attention, increase education, and place lifesaving defibrillators in communities across the country. We couldn’t be more excited to have such a dedicated and impactful advocate than Susan.” Susan was raised in Alexandria, Virginia and attended Holton Arms School and Mount Vernon College, where she studied photojournalism. Susan also studied with Ansel Adams and subsequently worked as a photojournalist for the Associated Press, Newsweek, Money Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, and others. She is the author of two novels set in the White House, “Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery” and its sequel, “Sharp Focus.”
During her high school years, Susan lived in the White House and served as official White House hostess following her mother’s surgery for breast cancer in 1974. Susan embraced Betty Ford’s extraordinary candor and courage in speaking publicly regarding Betty’s breast cancer. In 1984, Susan and her mother helped launch National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Susan has served as national spokesperson for Breast Cancer Awareness. For over thirty years, Mrs. Ford and Susan have emphasized the importance of early detection in their countless speeches around the world, including to cancer and other medical organizations, women’s groups, and medical and healthcare forums.
Since the founding of the Betty Ford Center in 1982, Susan worked side by side with her mother on projects at the Center and focused her personal efforts on the impact of addiction on the family. Susan is particularly active with several programs at the Center, including medical student training, the Center’s unique children’s program, and special programs for women with addictive disease. At the age of 52, Susan suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while exercising on an elliptical machine. She had no prior knowledge that she had heart disease. She says she was extremely lucky that while she was in the gym, a surgeon appeared and shocked her back to life with the use of an automated external defibrillator. She received a heart stent and pacemaker and made a full recovery, and has become a passionate advocate for improving heart health. She spoke recently at Starting Hearts’ special event, An Evening with Susan Ford Bales.