Campus hosts Heart Walk

Melissa Rollins, Staff Writer

Francis Marion University hosted the 2011 American Heart Association’s Pee Dee Heart Walk on Oct. 29.

Cold and rainy weather earlier in the morning tried to put a damper on the day, but participants and volunteers were still out in full force.

Many people at the event were cold from the weather, so an instructor from Fitness World Gym led the group in a warm-up.

Men, women and children of all ages danced and sang along with “Hey Ya” by OutKast to get their bodies warmed up and ready to walk.

Sponsors, like McLeod Hospital and Carolina Pines Hospital, handed out heart healthy fruits like apples and bananas to walkers, as well as hot coffee to help keep the cold away.

Survivors of heart disease and stroke led the walkers as they began the three-mile walk around the FMU campus. Eighty-year-old Ralph Wase was one of the survivors who walked.

“I am a 45-year survivor,” Wase said. “When I was 33, I had a heart cath (cardiac catheterization) put in. Three years later, in 1966, I had heart surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. God is good; I give him all the credit.”

Wase said that he believes that he was born with a heart defect. However, it wasn’t until he was 33 years old that he found out that he had an enlarged heart. He was carrying the receipt from his time at Johns Hopkins in his back pocket, showing anyone who wanted to see.

Remarkably, Wase said that he had a private nurse for three days of his hospital stay, and it only cost him $22.

Other participants were walking in memory of family members who had passed away from heart disease. McLeod Hospital employees Pam Bruck, Lori Page and Barbara Hill all walked in remembrance of someone who had passed.

“(We are here because) we all work for McLeod, but each of us has someone that we know that has heart disease,” Hill said. “We’ve all lost someone.”

D’Andrea Mitchell, a member of FMU sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, said that her group was at the event as part of their sorority’s “health initiative.”

The group ranged in age from babies in strollers being pushed by parents to those who were in their 70s and 80s like Wase.

Even some of the younger walkers, like Lucas McDowell, knew the value of taking part in events like the heart walk.

“I walked today because I think it was good for the heart,” McDowell said.

Bonnie Johnson, a family member who walked with McDowell, knows the benefits of events like this that raise money and awareness of diseases that affect large parts of the population.

“I’m a nurse, so I support events like the Heart Walk and the March of Dimes.” Johnson said.

Participants, whether as a group or individually, raised money by collecting donations.  That money will go toward funding research about the causes of strokes and heart disease, as well as preventative methods that can be taken and education projects for communities.

Heart disease research is important nationally but is even more important in the state of South Carolina.

Information from The American Heart Association’s website said that heart disease and stroke are the number one killers in South Carolina.

The monetary goal for the overall event on Saturday, Oct. 29 was $375,000. The American Heart Association’s website said that, as of Nov. 1, there had been $294,770 raised.