THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Fair weather Saturday morning brought out walkers for Tarboro’s 2nd Annual Heart and Stroke Walk. The walk was moved from November to September this year in the hopes of better weather — and it paid off.
“This year we had great weather and a lot of good support all the way around,” said Erin Grimsley, director of marketing, gifts and business development for Vidant Edgecombe Hospital. “It was really a fun event. It was great to have the ECU (East Carolina University) cheerleaders here to keep everybody pumped up.”
The cheerleaders led the walkers gathered at the Town Common in a warm-up routine before the 100 or so walkers strolled through downtown Tarboro to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke, the Nos. 2 and 3 killers of Edgecombe County residents. A person dressed in a heart-shaped costume led the pack.
“Heart disease and stroke claim the lives of more than 900,000 Americans,” Derrick Haskins, health promotion coordinator for the Edgecombe County Health Department, told participants before the walk began. Event coordinators reported that the walk raised more than $200,000 for the American Heart Association (AHA).
“The American Heart Association is so thankful for the support of this important event,” said Marian Barnhill, development director for the AHA. “The dollars raised here will directly benefit our mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.”
Several of the participants in Saturday’s walk said heart disease had personally affected them or affected someone they knew.
“My dad has had heart disease,” said Sheila Sanderson, heart walk team leader for Keihin Carolina System Technology (KCST). “I want to live a long and prosperous life without having to take any medications for heart disease.”
Another KCST walker, Sherry Webb, said heart problems run in her family.
“The heart walk’s kind of dear to me,” Webb said.
“I’ve had high cholesterol, but I’ve been able to maintain it for the last couple of years,” she went on to say. “I walk every day – five or six miles a day.”
KSCT had a representation of 19 walkers and raised $1,850 Saturday. Sanderson said the company has a walking track and is “really aware of the way exercise can affect your life.”
Katherine Abbott said she walked Saturday because her family has a history of high blood pressure and stroke. Walking has other benefits for her, as well.
“It makes you feel good. It’s a good stress reliever,” she said. “You couldn’t ask for a better day (for the walk).”
The walk raised awareness that heart conditions affect everyone, young and old. Alexis Sullivan, a cheerleader and junior at ECU, shared her experience with heart problems with the crowd at the walk. Sullivan had surgery for mitral valve repair in December 2011, at the age of 18, and it took three months for her to recover from the surgery. She had been diagnosed with a heart condition at the age of 1, but never had any symptoms and learned her condition had worsened when she went to a doctor’s checkup.
“I wasn’t symptomatic at all, so it was really, really shocking. It took a toll on me,” Sullivan said. “I’m really thankful that I’m here today and it’s very important to support the American Heart Association…It’s very common to have a heart condition and not know.”