Heart disease is the number one killer not only in McLean County, but also in the nation. It takes the lives of one in three people, which is why the health care community, local businesses, survivors, and those who have lost a loved one to heart disease or stroke will be raising funds for the American Heart Association and spreading awareness for heart health at the 2014 McLean County Heart Walk. The event will take place Sept. 20 at a new location, the Redbird Track at Illinois State University, and is open to people of all ages who want to support the work of the American Heart Association.
“The whole community is encouraged to attend to help celebrate heart disease survivors, share in the camaraderie of being a heart healthy community, and bring awareness of the resources available to help those who struggle with the disease,” said Erin Kennedy, health educator at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center’s Center for Healthy Lifestyles. Erin leads the local event committee as an American Heart Association volunteer.
All funds raised at the Heart Walk go to the American Heart Association, which remains the largest funding source for heart disease research outside of the federal government. The organization funded more than $16 million in research studies in Illinois alone last year.
“To put the work the American Heart Association does in perspective, think of the stent your family member had put in. Our research discovered stents,” said Aaron Lohnes, corporate events director for the American Heart Association. “I tell individuals to think of major breakthroughs like CPR, open heart surgery and pacemakers, and even the daily cholesterol or blood pressure medication they take. Chances are the American Heart Association funded that device or medication that is helping to treat those risk factors or conditions every day. The walkers who raise funds helped us do that.”
How does an individual participate in the heart walk?
You can register for the walk in a couple of different ways — as a community team, or a company team. Company teams set a fundraising goal and designate internal team captains who recruit walkers and host internal fundraisers. The American Heart Association provides resources for walkers to raise money online, through physical donations, and even with a Heart Walk app for smartphones.
Company teams represent the majority of local walkers, and at the heart of the walk is the local health care community. Local sponsor Advocate BroMenn Medical Center raised over $20,000 for the American Heart Association last year.
Katie Montague of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, who will lead an Advocate walk team for the second consecutive year, said: “Advocate Health Care is proud to support our community partners and provide opportunities for associates to engage in healthy and fun activities that benefit everyone. We participate in the heart walk not for the walk, but for the individuals that it impacts. Seeing firsthand the lives affected by Heart and Stroke research touches so many people within our community.”
Many individuals start a walk team to remember a loved one they lost to heart disease or stroke, and others start a team to recognize someone who survived. All survivors receive hats, and walkers can decorate tribute stickers they wear on their shirts to recognize the person they are walking for.
Walkers can also enjoy free health screenings, kids’ activities, fitness demonstrations, and heart-healthy food. Health care sponsors share the latest heart-health information so walkers can educate themselves on how to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.
“We all come out for the same common goal and that’s to raise awareness,” said Katie. “It’s a fun time for friends, associates, and family members to interact with people they may not see on a regular basis as well as a great way to exercise.”
“Let’s fight this disease together to bring awareness and take steps in the right direction to make this community healthier,” said Erin.
To register your team, visit www.mcleancountyheartwalk.org.
Photo courtesy of American Heart Association