By Renee Lorenz Special to Published Jan 30, 2011 at 5:01 AM

Don't be alarmed if you find yourself seeing red along Wisconsin Avenue this Thursday night.

The new hue won't be caused by road rage, but by a sea of men and women looking to kick off American Heart Month with a unified stance against one of the United States' most serious health concerns.

The Red Dress Dash is taking its first steps against heart disease in Milwaukee this February, but it's been going strong in Madison thanks to some innovative thinking on the part of the Go Red For Women campaign.

"Go Red For Women has been around since 2004, and when we first started our campaign, only seven percent of women knew that heart disease was their number one killer," said Sara Alger, the metro executive director of the American Heart Association. "We'd been itching to come up with different creative ways to engage women and men to let them know what's happening and what they can do to take control of their own heart health. The dash is just one of those things."

The Red Dress Dash was actually the brainchild of Wisconsin's American Heart Association staff. Since its creation, the dash has brought out a growing number of participants to the Madison event.

"It's been really successful, particularly with the college students," said Alger. "The dash ran to the capitol, which has been illuminated red in the past."

Turning the town red has been Milwaukee's way of drawing attention to the cause in the past, which also inspired bringing the dash to the city.

"We've been lighting buildings red in Milwaukee for the last several years, and this year the Calatrava at the art museum is going to go red," said Alger. "We were thinking, 'What can we do to bring attention to that?' because unless you're downtown, you wouldn't see it."

Alger and the members of the metro area branch of the AHA worked with their friends at The Pfister Hotel to bring the dash to Milwaukee and even design a signature drink for the occasion.

"People can gather at The Pfister Hotel starting at 5:30 and mingle a little bit. There's going to be a Go Red cocktail that they can purchase if they want," said Alger. "At about 6:30 the dash will head down to the art museum and there will be a reception there at the end. Also, Thursday happens to be a free day to wander the art museum, so it's a great way to see one of Milwaukee's treasures."

Though the cause is a serious one, the Red Dress Dash is more about having a seriously good time.

"We figured six blocks, that's too bad for a brisk run," said Alger. "It's not a timed run; it's not our heart walk. It's just something fun to do."

Early bird dashers can also get their hands on a slew of free stuff. The first 100 people that get to The Pfister will get a free Go Red For Women t-shirt along with a $10 gift card to Macy's, and the first 200 people will receive a gift bag at the end with goodies from the American Heart Association and the Go Red For Women sponsors.

There's no fee to participate in the Red Dress Dash, said Alger, because the need to raise awareness far outweighs the need to raise funds.

"One thing that we really want to achieve with the Go Red For Women campaign and the Red Dress Dash is to get people to make it their personal mission to be heart healthy," said Alger. "There are still people out there that either don't know or don't really know what to do about it. It's one thing to know that heart disease is your number-one killer, but it's important to really take action. Once you know about it, you have a duty to take action and take care of yourself."

With the positive reception the dash is already getting from the association's network of volunteers, Alger expects the turnout to easily reach 200 to 300 people.

"We're excited. It's going to be crazy fun," she said. "Men and women putting on a red dress or red clothing over their winter clothes and running down Wisconsin Avenue is not something you see every day in Milwaukee."

Renee Lorenz Special to

Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with, her occasional forays into the awesomeness that is the Brew City have turned into an overwhelming desire to discover anything and everything that's new, fun or just ... "different."

Expect her random musings to cover both the new and "new-to-her" aspects of Miltown goings-on, in addition to periodically straying completely off-topic, which usually manifests itself in the form of an obscure movie reference.