Success of Dare to C.A.R.E. program highlighted

Published 2:08 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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A ceremony to celebrate the successes and thank the community for their support of the Dare to C.A.R.E program in Dare County was held recently at the College of The Albemarle campus in Manteo.

Tina Hodgson, Manteo Rotary Club president, opened the ceremony with a warm welcome and a thank you to all those who contributed to make Dare to C.A.R.E. a success. She introduced Tim Sweeney, dean of COA – Dare, and thanked him for the school’s generous support and for the use of COA’s facilities. Sweeney in turn thanked all of the Outer Banks Rotary groups for coming together and coordinating Dare to C.A.R.E. and congratulated them on behalf of COA.

Hodgson then introduced Rhonda Flowers, the lead sonographer for each of the Dare to C.A.R.E. nights, who spoke of the importance of the program and the importance of a strong community in the Outer Banks. Flowers mentioned how so many seniors come to the facility to be screened and are very nervous. Most seniors get a good report and breath a “sigh of relief” when everything looks okay. But, when they do detect an issue, Flowers said they have the “crème de la crème” of physicians to call, Dr. John Martin, founder of the Dare to C.A.R.E. program. Martin is on call for all the screenings. The sonographers hand the phone to Martin so he can explain next steps to address any identified issues. Participants leave with “hope and a plan.”

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Next, Hodgson introduced Martin himself, who shared his appreciation for the Outer Banks community and a bit of history of how and why he founded the Dare to C.A.R.E. initiative 25 years ago. Martin, an accomplished surgeon, was inspired to start a program offering free screenings to seniors when he lost three patients in one night in the emergency room to cardiovascular issues that, with treatment and if caught in time, have an 88-89% success rate.    Cardiovascular disease is the #1 health problem in the country today. More than half of all Americans will die from complications of atherosclerosis, which is the root of cardiovascular disease.

When developing this program, Martin’s three non-negotiables for Dare to C.A.R.E. screenings were: 1 – the screenings be completely free; 2 – the participants would get their screening results immediately; and 3 – no self-referrals, which meant that the participants would be given the information from their screening and they could go back to their primary physician and decide where they would like to seek treatment on their own. Martin said of the program “Our metric of success of the program is the number of people we touch.”

He expressed his gratitude to the Outer Banks community and noted that this is the only Dare to C.A.R.E. location that didn’t start in a doctor’s office or hospital setting. “What makes this program in Dare County so special is that it was initiated and now driven by a collaboration between community member volunteers, not a healthcare facility or doctors.” Instead, Martin’s brother, Dr. Richard Martin and his wife Sandy, aware of the great benefits of the program, discussed bringing the program to Dare County with members of the Manteo Rotary Club and the initiative took off from there, becoming a joint project of the Rotary Clubs of the Outer Banks.

Dr. John Martin commented “The combination of the Rotarians, COA leadership, technologists, community members and leaders is unique and why this program stands apart from all others across the county.” He also said “I’ll keep coming back, I’ll keep supporting this group because you are a remarkable group.”

Hodgson then introduced Sandy Martin, sister-in-law of Dr. John Martin, Dare County Dare to C.A.R.E. program director and member of the Manteo Rotary. Sandy started off by saying “I truly believe that lives are going to be saved and stories are going to be changed.” She also expressed the relief that seniors show after a screening with good results, and the sense of fear, but also hope, after a screening with not-so-good results. Sandy then recognized several local groups for their support of Dare to C.A.R.E.

Among those recognized with a framed certificate and a round of applause were Sweeney, Southern Shores Fire Chief Ed Limbacher, Pastor Erren Gibbs with Father’s Tabernacle in Manns Harbor, Jenna Wienert with the Thomas A. Baum Center (Jodie Futch accepted on her behalf), Dare County commissioners (Rob Ross accepted on behalf of the commissioners) and the Outer Banks Community Foundation (Chris  Sawin, executive director, accepted on behalf foundation). Sandy then listed the names of all of the volunteers who had assisted with Dare to C.A.R.E., whether it be greeting patients, signing them in, assisting with screening or simply being available to  answer questions. Each volunteer in attendance was asked to stand and afterward, all were presented with a certificate of appreciation.

All Dare County individuals 60 and over or 50 or over with risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are encouraged to make an appointment for their free vascular screening. To schedule an appointment, call 410-573-9483 Monday through Wednesday 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. For additional information, go to