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Walkers in Greencastle event truly have heart

September 29, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Flanked on both sides by screaming middle-school cheerleaders, participants in Sunday's Heart Walk took their first steps on a 3.8-mile trek designed to raise money to reduce stroke and death caused by cardiovascular disease.

Mont Alto, Pa., resident Sandy Heckman proudly wore her red baseball cap to designate herself as a survivor when she joined the crowd. She had open-heart surgery in 1995 and has attended the Heart Walk for Franklin and Fulton counties ever since.

"All the money you can raise to do more for research is wonderful," Heckman said.

Event organizer Sharon Strike estimated that 500 people laced up sneakers for the 15th annual event. The 2008 goal was $166,000.

A grassy field by Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School held tents with blood pressure screenings and CPR information. Some volunteers took orders for kits associated with the Start! walking incentives program, while others distributed balls and hula hoops in the Kid Zone.

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"We're trying to get people more physically active," Strike said.

Tents also housed a doctor, dietitian and physical trainer on-site to answer questions about exercise and heart health.

Shawn Souders, of Marion, Pa., collected contributions from colleagues and family. She brought her son, Garrett, 10, to participate in the Heart Walk for a second time.

"I liked it and wanted to do it again for the cause," Shawn Souders said.

Heckman, who described the event as well-organized, walked with her colleague, Kathy Eaton, of Chambersburg, Pa., and Eaton's brother, Jay Stevens, of Waynesboro, Pa. Eaton and Heckman work for White Rock Inc.'s real estate office for the Penn National community.

Heckman said she talks to family and friends when soliciting sponsorships, and especially highlights the need for further research.

Strike said passionate survivors really drive the success of the event.

"We have a number of survivor families that have their own teams and come back year after year," she said.

In addition to the main course, organizers set up a "bypass" route of 1.3 miles as an alternate option for participants.

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