Saturday, November 28, 2009

Walk This Way!

Each year, hundreds of thousands of walkers from Albuquerque to Austin to Arkansas venture outside to walk in support of the American Heart Association. This fall, the SCA hosted 28 Start! Heart Walks mostly in Texas, as part of the AHA’s Start! national wellness program, which encourages all Americans and their employers to live longer, more heart-healthy lives by walking 365 days a year. Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico walks occur mostly in the spring.

The Dallas Heart Walk was again the number one Heart Walk in the country. Over 25,000 people and 40 new companies participated in the soggy, rain-drenched event and helped raise over $2.8 million. The event would not have been successful without the combined efforts of the three cause sponsors — Tenet Healthcare, Perot Systems and Frito-Lay — and their employees; Aetna Foundation (the first Dallas Heart Walk Signature Sponsor); event Chair, Al Carey, President and CEO of Frito-Lay; Honorary Heart Walk Chair Mayor Tom Leppert; and all the executive champions whose companies continue to provide support and awareness each year.

But Dallas was not the only success recorded this fall for the SCA. Throughout the Affiliate, volunteers and staff have worked together to produce exciting community-driven events, that have helped raise funds and educate people about cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Here’s a round-up of some of the Heart Walks across the SCA:

Houston - They’re breaking records down in Houston! An estimated 25,000 Houstonians participated in the 2009 Start! Houston Heart Walk. Together, the Houston community raised more than $1.5 million, recruited a record number of top walkers for Houston, and collected the highest amount of money raised online for Houston.

Montgomery County (Texas) – One of the highlights from the 2009 Start! Montgomery County Heart Walk, which raised just over $225,000, was the story of 13-year-old walker Ashley Lachterman. A first time Heart Walker, Ashley led a team of friends to raise over $4,000 as part of her Bat Mitzvah. The girls had such a good time that they have pledged to return next year as a team. The Chair for the Heart Walk was Edgar Anderson, President of Maritech Resources and the Start! Cause Sponsor was Tom Pisula Development.

Longview, TX – Through the combined efforts of team captains and company leaders, the Longview Start! Heart Walk raised $64,000. The event’s Cause Sponsor, Good Shepherd Medical Center; and the Chair of the event, Ed Banos, CEO of the Good Shepherd Medical Center was a huge part of this success.

Tarrant County (Texas) - In the Fort Worth area, the Tarrant County staff saw increases almost completely across the board this year including company and individual walker recruitment, emails and online donations. The event raised $1.2 million with 10,000 WET walkers in attendance (it rained much harder this year than during Hurricane Ike’s surprise visit to last year’s walk). The Chair of the event was Steve Newton, who recruited his niece, Ugly Betty star Becki Newton, as the Celebrity Chair of the event.

Russellville, Arkansas and Siloam Springs, Arkansas – Volunteers and staff led these two events to the largest Heart Walks in the history of these areas. Raising a combined $73,000, these two events already have volunteer support lined up for 2010.

Abilene, TX – The highlight of the event was recognizing Abilene’s individual top walker, J. W. Simpson, who has been the top walker for thirty-four years! Over 1,000 walkers helped raise $100,000 and were treated to cheers from the local cheerleading squads, face-painting for the kids and treats for the pets.

San Antonio, TX - The San Antonio Heart Walk, sponsored by Baptist Health System, occurred on November 7. This year the staff and volunteers, including Chair Mike Zucker, Chief Development Officer from Baptist Health System of San Antonio, recruited 84 companies to participate (almost 30 more than last year) and raised $480,000.

Amarillo, TX – The surprise story of this walk was Don Thompson, the CEO for Cardiology Center of Amarillo, volunteered to run the 5K race in a red dress if his company’s team met their goal of $4,000. In two weeks, the 60 employees raised over $18,000 and Don delivered on his promise by showing up in a delightfully sequined cocktail dress — what a great sport!

Austin, TX – In Austin, fundraising by individual walkers was up an impressive 69 percent over last year’s event, including 64 walkers who raised over $500 each. This increase, along with the efforts from volunteers and staff contributed to a total of just over $256,000 raised.

Start! is sponsored nationally by SUBWAY® restaurants, Healthy Choice® and AstraZeneca ®.

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