The American Heart Association hosted its 32nd annual Oklahoma City Heart Ball on Saturday, February 23. Oklahoma City Thunder player Russell Westbrook honored his childhood friend during the event.
The Heart Ball took place at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Officials say the event's fundraising goal is $640,000, which will support heart and stroke research, education and legislative advocacy.
Currently, the American Heart Association is funding 20 research projects totaling more than $4.1 million in the state of Oklahoma alone.
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder has a personal reason why he's supporting the cause. He was in the audience to honor his best friend, Khelcey Barrs III.
Westbrook said they had hopes of going to UCLA and playing together in the NBA, but Barrs died tragically in 2004. During a pickup basketball game, Barrs collapsed due to an enlarged heart.
Westbrook keeps his memory alive, wearing KB3 wristbands during every game.
The theme of this year's Heart Ball will be "Wonders of the Heart," which features whimsical decor (à la Alice in Wonderland) with entertainment and dancing to the Scott Keeton Band.
A highlight of each Heart Ball is the presentation of Sweethearts, local high school students who participate in volunteer and education programs for the American Heart Association throughout the school year.
Another highlight was the live and silent auctions, which each year offer valuable items donated by generous supporters.
To contribute to the mission of the American Heart Association, call Terri Bailey at (405)-948-2135 or visit the official website.