By Laura Ann Tipps/Staff Writer
The Northeast Alabama Heart Walk, benefitting the American Heart Association, will take place on Oct. 19, beginning at 8 a.m., in the parking lot behind the YMCA on Walnut Street in Gadsden.
In addition to the walk, other festivities will include music, refreshments, health screenings, and a kids’ zone with activities sponsored by the Imagination Place.
There also will be tents for heart disease and stroke awareness, education on exercise and healthy living, and to honor survivors.
A Lifestyle Change Award will be presented to a person who has been nominated for making an exceptional change in their habits in order to improve their cardiovascular health. Nominations for this award will remain open until Oct. 9, and forms are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Over 25 area companies are involved in this year’s Heart Walk.
Two top partners are Riverview and Gadsden Regional, and others include Gadsden State Community College, Regency Pointe, and the Holiday Inn Express in Attalla.
Marcy Gregerson and Lori Ortiz of Riverview are serving as this year’s Heart Walk chairs.
Riverview’s sponsorship will continue year-round as a part of their stroke awareness platform.
“They are doing great work, and they have really done a lot to help the American Heart Association,” said Iralyn Sumerel, the Regional Director of the American Heart Association.
The walk helps to raise funds for the American Heart Association through the creation of company and community teams. Participating companies in the area have formed teams and collected donations, and so have other community groups like churches, civic organizations, and even individual families.
“We have one family who signs up as a team every year to honor their daughter, who has been affected by heart disease,” said Sumerel.
The proceeds from the Heart Walk will benefit the American Heart Association in a number of ways.
The money will fund Association research that could uncover the next life-saving advancements, such as the pacemaker, which was the result of American Heart Association research.
The walk will also help the Association fund its 2020 Impact Goal and the “My Heart. My Life.” initiative. The 2020 Impact Goal is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent, all by the year 2020.
If achieved, this would save up to 78,000 American lives per year.
“The Heart Walk really focuses on the part of the goal about improving Americans’ health, and that’s what My Heart, My Life. is all about. We want people to take charge and say, ‘I’m the only person that can get myself healthy,’” said Sumerel.
Heart disease is 80 percent preventable, and the American Heart Association initiatives encourage people to take the steps they can to increase their physical activity, improve their nutrition, and pass these healthy habits onto children.
For the first time, the children of the present ge-neration have shorter life expectancies than their pa-rents.
“We really want to help reverse this epidemic of childhood obesity because it will lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.”
The actual walk is a three-mile path and will start and end in the parking lot of the YMCA, where the other festivities will continue throughout the day after 8 a.m.
Sumerel said it is not too late to sign up a team for the walk, but you do not have to be pre-registered to attend as a walker or just to enjoy the other activities.
There is no fee for either. She said the Association hopes for high attendance, because the main goal of the walk is to educate people and help them improve their cardiovascular health and overall quality of life.
“The point of it being a walk instead of a run is that small efforts, like walking just 30 minutes a day three days a week, can equal big outcomes—you don’t have to run a marathon or become a bodybuilder to improve your health greatly. We’re just all about helping people to live better.”
For more information, visit nealheartwalk.org.