For the sixth year in a row, Madison will be awash in red as over 100 women will gather this Saturday to raise awareness for heart disease from at Fountain of Life Covenant Church on Madison’s south side.

The Sixth Annual National Wear Red Day Observance and Photo Shoot will once again be hosted by the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, founded by its current president Lisa Peyton-Caire, who heads up the same foundation responsible for hosting Black Women’s Wellness Day.

What has now become a staple in the Madison black community was sparked by Peyton-Caire losing her own mother and three aunts due to complications from heart disease.

“Because of the personal experience with my mother, losing her and losing all three of my paternal aunts in their 50s and 60s, is really what brought this event to fruition,” said Peyton-Caire.

Killing nearly 50,000 Black women annually, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for that population. With 48.3 percent of Black women 20 and older having cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association, Peyton-Caire says that many of our families are likely affected by the disease.

Lisa Peyton-Caire
Lisa Peyton-Caire

After suffering her own loss and learning only 36 percent of Black women even know heart disease is their greatest risk factor, Peyton-Caire wanted to help raise awareness in the black community, but she recalled being met with apprehension.

“When I moved back to Madison in 2011 and starting talking with people about the vision to grow Black Women’s Wellness Day here and to create a movement around Black Women’s health, I was met with caution and indifference and warned that Black women would be hard to engage,” she said.

Nevertheless, she persisted, and to date, Peyton-Caire’s foundation has engaged and mobilized thousands of women, serving over 1,000 women and girls each year. The organization will also host its 9th annual Black Women’s Wellness Day event on September 16th in Madison which attracts over 600 women each year from across the state and beyond.

“We have shown in this work that Black women are not hard to engage, that we will show up, lead and create the change we want to see in our community and world,” said Peyton-Caire. “Our work has demonstrated that Black Women are deeply concerned about our health and quality of life, and that when we are in the driver’s seat of creating our own solutions and pathways to empowerment, it works.”

It works so well in fact that after just six years Peyton-Caire has many success stories of women who have had their lives changed through attending events and joining a network of health-conscious women. Cassandra Sonko, for example, was insulin-dependent and required a walker and oxygen tank when Peyton-Caire first met her at the 2015 Black Women’s Wellness Day, but just a year later she was able to share her story of no longer needing any of those aides.

Other women have learned they have undiagnosed high blood pressure after being screened during one of the foundation’s events and were able to immediately receive assistance and information from an on-site physician.

“Many people will say ‘wear red day, that’s a white women’s event’, but it is not a white women’s event,” said Peyton-Caire. “If there’s any discussion about heart disease it’s a discussion that every woman and every man need to have and Black women need to be at the forefront of that discussion, because we are the most impacted.”

The event this Saturday is a “very fun way” of addressing heart disease Peyton-Caire said. The event will include music, refreshments, and vendors. There will also be a panel that includes a medical professional, who will discuss causes and preventive measures of heart disease, as well as a survivor of cardiovascular disease, who will share her journey.

But first the day will start off group photos of attendees in their various shades of red, starting promptly at noon. The event will take place at Fountain of Life Church located at 633 W Badger road an go until 3:30 p.m.

Registration for the Sixth Annual National Wear Red Observance and Photo shoot is still open and people are also welcome to register at the door on Saturday. Although the event is primarily catered towards Black women, anyone who is willing to add to and take away knowledge from the space is welcome, said Caire.

“We have created a momentum and set a powerful example for how Black Women can take action to create and be own solutions and healers,” said Peyton-Caire. “Our efforts have spurred many more efforts among more women who are working in a number of ways to make Greater Madison a healthier and more thriving place of wellness and opportunity for Black women. And we’re just getting started.”