Jim Fullerton received the AHA’s Morgan Stark Memorial Award. (Photo by Tim Sharp)

Jim Fullerton received the AHA’s Morgan Stark Memorial Award. (Photo by Tim Sharp)

Nearly three decades ago, a colleague whose son had a congenital heart defect suggested that Jim Fullerton consider helping the American Heart Association.

Fullerton jumped in, working on a golf tournament committee to raise money for the AHA in Denver, and eventually joined the board of the Desert Mountain Affiliate and, ultimately, other affiliates.

“I just got more and more involved,” said Fullerton, who last month received the AHA’s Morgan Stark Memorial Award, which was named for a highly respected investor, financier and philanthropist who supported the nonprofit. “This has been very rewarding.”

For years, Fullerton was president of Colorado Business Bank. He put his business acumen to use guiding the financial and organizational activities of affiliates in his region of the country. Several years into his volunteer work, his dad died of a heart attack during a fishing trip.

“Now it got personal,” he said. “That really renewed my commitment.”

The Desert Mountain Affiliate was merged with other affiliates. Fullerton became a leader and eventually chair of the Pacific Mountain Affiliate, which he and his team guided through tough financial times. Later, Fullerton was instrumental in the merger of that affiliate in 2010-2011.

Leadership during an affiliate merger can be difficult in many ways, Fullerton said, explaining that not only are finances a concern, but volunteers must be reassured and attitudes about the changes must be dealt with throughout the organization.

“So that was a challenging time,” he said.

Fullerton was eventually asked to become chair of the SouthWest Affiliate, which Colorado is now part of, and he held that position from 2012-2014. Ron W. Haddock, who became chair of the AHA’s national board, recruited him for that volunteer role.

“That was just an incredible honor for me. I had not seen that coming,” Fullerton said.

One achievement was working with leaders to strategically invest an additional $23 million to boost progress toward the 2020 Impact Goal, aimed at improving cardiovascular health for all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.

Each affiliate was asked to “step up their game,” he said.

Fullerton believes that business experience benefits the AHA and that boards within the organization need both people with medical expertise and financial experience.

“You have to have a good business approach to things,” said Fullerton, who now works in financial consulting. “I just took things from my day job to my volunteer job.”

Today, he serves on the AHA’s national investment committee and the national corporate operations coordinating committee. He also remains connected to the SouthWest affiliate.

A past chair of the Denver board of directors, he is still actively involved in fundraising, including participating in the Denver Heart Ball.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “It’s a wonderful cause.”