Annual Heart Walk sheds light on infant heart defects

Participants gather in the Survivor Zone after completing the either 5k or the 1-mile at the American Heart Association's Heart Walk on Saturday at Bridgeport Park. Ryan Painter/The Signal.
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One of the easiest ways to avoid heart disease is to get out and walk, and on Saturday hundreds of local residents did just this; braving the early-morning cold to attend the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk at Bridgeport Park.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has hosted heart walks all across Los Angeles County, and Saturday was the fifth consecutive year the Downtown LA-based organization has chosen Santa Clarita as one of the sites for the event.

The walk aims to promote healthy living while garnering awareness for heart and other cardiovascular diseases. 


Local residents, both human and canine, stretch after completing the 5k walk at Bridgeport Park in Valencia on Saturday morning. Ryan Painter/The Signal.

“We gather community members and families to celebrate heart health and promote awareness for heart disease and stroke, which are the number one and number two killers within Los Angeles County,” said AHA Senior Director of Communications and Marketing Kristine Kelly.

The event featured a 5k walk and and a 1-mile survivor stroll. After finishing the course, participants were treated to a myriad of booths featuring healthy food, live music and information from medical professionals. 

Paramedic Mark Hovey teaches the basics of CPR to participants at the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk at Bridgeport Park on Saturday. Ryan Painter/The Signal.

The Heart Walk serves a major fundraiser for the AHA, Kelly told The Signal.

“The money we raise goes to research,” said Kelly. “Our goal is to raise $2.5 million, so far we’ve raised $1.5 million.”

For many afflicted with heart defects, this research is vital.

Mason Graham and Tiffany Hendricks both attended with their babies, Rocky and Tristan, respectively, who were born with congenital heart defects.

“Rocky had two heart surgeries in his first year and will have one more when he’s three,” said Graham.

Henricks told a similar tale.

“Tristan hasn’t had heart surgery yet, but he’s had a heart catheterization, and he’s expected to have a few more until he’s in his teens,” she said.

Survivors like Rocky and Tristan underscore the importance for proper scientific research, their parents said.

“Usually babies with heart defects can’t make it too long on their own,” said Graham. “They require open heart surgery or different types of operations so they can live.”

Many of the survivors echoed another common theme: the general public knows little about heart defects.

“It’s our daughter, she’s 16 months old and she has had four open heart surgeries,” said Santa Clarita resident Rick Thomas. “We didn’t know anything about it before, just like a lot of other families, but once you’re affected it’s different.”

Events like the Heart Walk, he said, help to shed light on these conditions.

“One in every 100 babies is born with a heart defect,” said Graham.

“It’s so serious that it’d be good to raise awareness for the babies out there going through this.” 

Walkers leave messages of encouragement for those with heart disease at the Heart Walk on Saturday. Ryan Painter/The Signal.


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