WASHINGTON , D.C. – Eighteen of the nation's most beautiful women, all in fabulous red dresses, visited Howard University Hospital on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to charm patients, talk with hospital staff and D.C. area residents and to encourage women to take care of their hearts.
The women, Miss Black USA contestants, were dressed in flowing gowns, cocktail dresses and other evening wear as met with patients throughout the hospital. The women were in D.C. for their annual Red Dress Photo shoot, and decided they wanted to visit the hospital to brighten some patients' day.
"These young ladies, as well as the organization, strongly believe that service is a part of who we are," said Karen Arrington, who founded the organization in 1965. "We felt it was fitting to do something in tribute to a man who through his service changed America. We couldn't think of a better place to do that than at Howard University Hospital."
Heads turned and people stopped to question the contestants as they made their way to various levels of the hospital.
"Wow, they look gorgeous," one woman said as they passed. Cheryl Crandol, a nurse supervisor at the hospital, said patients were really pleased to meet the women."We had one little girl who said, "When I grow up, I want to be a princess in a red dress," Crandol said with a laugh."
Part of the Miss Black USA effort was to promote February as Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, Arrington said. One in four women die from heart disease annually. That is particularly true of African-American women, Arrington said.
So, for the past three years, her organization has partnered with the Heart Truth Campaign, an initiative of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"We want to encourage young women, particularly young black women, to live a healthy lifestyle to avoid heart disease in the future," Arrington said.