Bridgeport Park buzzed with energy Saturday morning as people danced to “Cha Cha Slide,” took pictures with colorful heart and fruit mascots and stretched out before the annual American Heart Association Santa Clarita Heart Walk.
Los Angeles Heart Walks are held in Santa Clarita, Pasadena, Antelope Valley, Long Beach and Playa Vista, the last of which was added this year. Approximately 3,000 people attended. The event consisted of a vendor expo and opening ceremonies followed by a 5K run or walk. Besides raising funds, Kelsey Muir, senior Heart Walk director for the American Heart Association (AHA), believes that the Heart Walks are good tools for education and community engagement.
“Most of us sit behind a desk each day or in our cars, so still we’re learning how to have companies incorporate aspects of physical wellness in addition to mental wellness and we’re trying to change the health of Los Angeles,” said Muir. “I think these walks help the individual communities because it reinforces the camaraderie. I work a lot with corporations and whenever I sit down and talk to people almost everyone has a tie to someone dealing with cardiovascular disease or stroke whether it’s themselves, family or friends.”
Cardiovascular disease, known as the “silent killer,” has claimed more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Heart disease or stroke kills one out of every three women each year.
Including the Santa Clarita Walk, the Los Angeles AHA walks have raised over $1.4 million so far. That amount will increase after the upcoming Antelope Valley walk. According to Muir, fundraising has increased each year. For example, the team from the medical company Abbott raised about $40,000 alone and has the potential to be the first team to raise over $50,000 if the company decides to match donations. The money raised will go support further research by the AHA.
Abbott team member and heart patient Hector Gamboa said he came to the walk to show his support and raise awareness for heart health.
“The more people that come to events, the more aware that the public will be,” Gamboa said. “This is actually my first time at one of these events and I’m glad to see a bunch of like-minded people with the same goal.”
Dean Sime and Vanessa Sime, whose “heart warrior” son Chase was born with a heart defect in March and underwent open heart surgery, came to the event to show their support for him, the AHA and others facing cardiac problems.
“This is an ongoing battle and I believe that due to the work that the AHA and other have done, Chase has a chance at life,” Vanessa said. “This is a hidden battle and you wouldn’t know that we worry about him every day unless you took his shirt off and saw his scar. I believe that people who live with cardiac issues are some of the strongest I have ever met.”
The Castaic family has also attended the Pasadena Heart Walk, and while they enjoyed it, Dean said that his family really appreciated the hometown, community feel of having a local Heart Walk and appreciated seeing all the families come to show their support.
“Events like this help out future generations like it helped us out,” Dean added. “We need to continue to support research for the future so doctors can better technology and better resources. That’s what pushes us, helping kids like our child.”