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Heart Walk raises awareness, funds

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 12:28 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Leigh-Ann Brewer of Milton had a special reason to participate in Saturday's Huntington Heart Walk at Ritter Park and some special shoes, too.

Brewer's mom, Debbie, died in her sleep about a year ago at the age of 57 of heart failure. Leigh-Ann and her dad, Ron Brewer, were among about 500 participants in the 5K run/walk Saturday.

"We didn't know the warning signs of cardiovascular disease," Leigh-Ann Brewer said. "We're here to raise awareness. I'm wearing my mom's shoes. We would like to do this every year. I've had my heart checked, and so has my dad."

The goal of the Huntington Heart Walk -- presented by the American Heart Association and St. Mary's Regional Heart Institute -- is to raise $75,000, said Kim Ward, Heart Walk director. "It's the American Heart Association's premier fundraising event for this area. It's a community event to promote healthier lifestyles and awareness of cardiovascular disease and stroke."

Prior to the walk, the group had raised about $45,000, she said. "We hope to make our goal today," Ward said. Three-fourths of every dollar goes to education and research, she said.

"Walking is a great way to improve cardiovascular health," Ward said. "Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the country."

Jane Edelen of Barboursville knows all about taking care of your heart. She wore a sweatshirt proclaiming "I'm a Survivor, Heart Disease Awareness."

"I've been building up for this," Edelen said. "I'm just proud to get out and walk again. I was having problems. My message to everyone is to listen to your body. I was just really tired.

"I couldn't have had a better medical team than I had at St. Mary's," she said. "I'm a survivor and I'm proud of it."

Becky Davis of Huntington and a group of family members and friends were participating in their second Huntington Heart Walk. Her daughter, Samantha, 25, has had six open heart surgeries. The first was when she was two days old, and the last was when she was 11.

"We found out (about the heart problems) when she was 45 minutes old," Davis said. "She's doing great now. As a mom, I want to raise awareness."

Lexie Queen and her friend, Graci Borders, both 12, and both students at Boyd County Middle School, also were among the participants. "We raised money," she said. "We want to help people get better."

The Huntington Heart Walk continues to have one of the largest turnouts of any Heart Walk in the state, said Holly Bagyi, metro director for the American Heart Association.

Money raised by the Heart Walk goes toward scientific research through West Virginia University and Marshall University and to education and outreach regarding heart disease and stroke, she said.

"If you or someone you love has ever had a stint or a catheter, you can thank the people who bring in donations for the Heart Walk because these things are available due to the money we raise for life-giving scientific work and research," Bagyi said.

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