Years before he started volunteering for the American Heart Association, Don Hultgren’s mom suffered a stroke. Before then, Hultgren had no idea about all the work the organization does in this area.

But over the past 15 years, the Dallas-area businessman has enjoyed doing a large variety of important work to help the AHA fight heart disease and stroke — and he keeps finding more.

Last month, as an American Heart Association meritorious achievement winner, Hultgren was recognized for critical contributions to the association’s Vision for Volunteerism initiative to increase the recruitment and engagement of local volunteer boards.

“Obviously there are many worthwhile organizations where someone could volunteer,” said Hultgren, the president of Three Part Advisors, a capital markets advisory firm in Southlake, Texas. “What is different about the AHA is that it’s a large enough organization that you can continue to be challenged by different projects. You have the opportunity to anticipate a very diverse experience in terms of what it means to be a volunteer. I have found it to be very fulfilling.”

That’s due largely to two reasons, he said: the AHA’s commitment to research and public awareness.

The AHA has invested more than $3.5 billion in research for heart disease and stroke, more than any organization outside the federal government. Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 4 killers in America. Each year, they claim more than 788,000 lives, about the same as the population of Charlotte, North Carolina, or Fort Worth, Texas.

Hultgren, who just finished his sixth year as a member of the National Investment Committee, has worked in a variety of areas, starting with the Dallas Division Board. Soon after, he was asked to co-chair the heart and stroke gala in Dallas, now the largest, most successful American Heart Association gala in the nation. These events raise money to help the association fund lifesaving research.

“We put together a very successful event in terms of how much we were able to raise for the cause,” he said. “And we made it more of a corporate event so that now it’s one of the biggest charity events in the city.”

Most recently, Hultgren played a big role in the association’s Vision for Volunteerism. It’s designed to help the association keep recruiting and retaining more talented volunteers to reach its goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, and reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, by 2020.

Ultimately the team delivered a list of 16 guidelines — a “roadmap” to help local boards become more successful and increase volunteer engagement.

According to the AHA, its boards, event leadership and volunteers — and the activities they drive to improve the health of communities — define the organization. And, as Hultgren said, it’s a team effort.

“It’s very kind that I’ve been singled out,” he said. “At no time in my tenure at the American Heart Association have I worked alone. A lot of other volunteers and staff who do great work contribute to the cause.”