The American Heart Association (AHA) funds more research than any other U.S. organization except the federal government. It spends nearly 80 cents of every dollar it receives on research, education and community. Research dollars support scientific studies seeking new discoveries related to causes, prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke. The organization also works to implement policies, such as healthy eating options in workplaces and schools, as well as physical education. For a country that spends nearly $150 billion yearly on obesity-related medical conditions, being active is just as important as funding research to combat heart disease.

In order to find a solution to the diseases plaguing Americans, the organization sponsors an annual Heart Walk. It is estimated that more than one million walkers will participate in the 2018 Heart Walk, which is made up of nearly 350 events nationwide. Brevard County’s Heart Walk will take place at The Avenue on February 24 at 8 a.m. Participants have the option of walking one or three miles. As the participants of the AHA’s Heart Walk put shoes to the pavement, they walk with a purpose and hope.

“The Heart Walk provides an engaging way for communities, families, friends and colleagues to come together, get outdoors and have fun together.” – Jeremy Bradford 

Community Support

In the past, the Brevard event has typically raised approximately $65,000 with approximately 1,000 attendees. This year, the plans are loftier, with a fundraising goal of $100,000. Many local organizations have supported the Heart Walk over the years, including Wuesthoff Health System, which has been involved for two decades. This organization and others are highly committed to the cause, especially given the severity of the disease and the work the AHA has exerted in Brevard County.

“We’ve always been committed and will continue to be committed to giving back to the community,” said Andy Romaine, president of Steward Health Care. “With this event, we feel we can support a great organization that brings money back into Brevard County through charitable work and the work we do every day with our talented physicians and staff.”

For Parrish Medical Center, which has also been involved in the Heart Walk for many years, the event is an opportunity for the organization to continue to raise awareness about the important role an active lifestyle plays in heart and cardiovascular health, as well as raise awareness about the critical role the AHA plays in funding leading-edge research that has advanced treatment options for heart disease and stroke.

“The Heart Walk provides an engaging way for communities, families, friends and colleagues to come together, get outdoors and have fun together,” said Jeremy Bradford, Vice President, Operations, Outpatient Services and Business Development at Parrish. “You don’t have to be an athlete or a marathon runner to reap heart-healthy rewards. Walking, biking, swimming or simply playing on the playground for just 20 to 30 minutes a day goes a long way in supporting a healthy heart.”

Driven By Passion

While corporations are instrumental in making the event a success, the Heart Walk ultimately relies on the individuals who participate in the event to help achieve the organization’s goal of improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020. For a disease that has affected so many, Bradford has found participants have various motives.

“Some have expressed being inspired by others who participate in the event, especially survivors,” Bradford said. “Some walk in memory of a friend or family member they have lost to heart disease or stroke. Some see the pain and suffering caused by heart disease and stroke. Others have children or grandchildren born with heart conditions. They want to see these children grow up healthy.”