By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Organizers of the Four-State Heart Walk, to be held in September in Joplin, are ambitious: Last year’s event raised about $27,000, while this year they have set a goal of $50,000.
So far, $17,500 has been raised. Among the donors to date: Two students at Nevada High School who put on a fundraiser in February as a class project and brought in $2,500.
The walk will be staged on Sept. 28 on the campus of Missouri Southern State University. The two-mile walk is designed not just to raise money for the American Heart Association but also awareness, according to David Russell, chairman of the planning committee.
“Heart disease, it just touches so many people,” he said. “So folks are really interested in helping out. It’s not hard once they find out about it.”
Russell, who works at Southwest Missouri Bank in Carthage, also has a personal connection.
“Last year I really wanted to get involved in the community, so I called our marketing department to get some suggestions,” he said. “When they mentioned the Heart Walk, it made perfect sense and I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it earlier.”
Earlier last year, Russell, 54, “basically passed out at work one day.”
“I was taken to the hospital and found out I’ve got a fairly minor heart issue,” he said. “I have to take medicine to keep my heart fluttering on a regular basis. It’s an electrical issue. That was pretty scary.”
He wants to create awareness in order to correct misconceptions that heart disease “is a deal where lifestyle choices are at play.”
“While that is true for some people, there are plenty of folks out there that because of the genetic hand they were dealt, they can eat good, they can exercise, and still could have any different heart issues,” he said. “It’s pretty indiscriminate.”
His younger sister was born with a heart valve issue, and several of the 25 committee members have been personally impacted by heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year — that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
“These things can crop up when they’re little babies, or can crop up and be diagnosed when they’re 10, 25, 50,” Russell said. “Heart disease just doesn’t care.”
Last year, some 400 to 500 people participated in the Four-State Heart Walk, and Russell’s committee is anticipating more this year.
“We’ve started contacting corporate sponsors, companies where people would want to line up teams. It’s going really well,” he said. “Also, in raising awareness, we want to contact folks in outlying communities in Kansas, in Oklahoma, to let them know this is going on and it’s for the entire region.”
Russell said now is the perfect time to look at starting a team, since the event is several months away.
Those who would like to participate or donate may go to www.4statesheartwalk.org.
On June 1, Walgreens is sponsoring a 5K race/walk and a 1K kids’ fun run to support the Four-State Heart Walk. It will start and finish at the 20th and Main streets Walgreens in Joplin. Find details on Facebook: Joplin 5K for AHA presented by Walgreens.