PEMBROKE — Thanks to Mother Nature, people participating Saturday in the second annual Heart Walk could walk on behalf of loved ones under clear skies and to the gentle touch of a light breeze.
Starting at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s quad, more than 150 people walked a mile around the campus to show support and to help raise money to support research, education and prevention efforts for heart disease and stroke, the nation’s top killers. Walkers who raised $100 or more were eligible to receive a free red T-shirt.
As of Saturday afternoon more than $15,000 had been donated online. Donations made at the Heart Walk, hosted by the American Heart Association, were not tallied Saturday. The fundraising goal is $50,000.
“It’s for my grandmother, Veorah Mack, and for my family and their history,” Shellie Wilson said after finishing the walk.
Wilson said she has participated in several walks and always tries to walk on behalf of good causes.
“I love it,” she said.
As people registered at the gate, they were able to write the names of people forwhom they were walking on the back of their shirts.
Doralene Kinlaw walked for her father, James Clark, who struggled with heart disease before succumbing to it, one of about a 620,000 Americans a year who die from it.
“I saw it on Facebook and I was interested,” Kinlaw said.
No stranger to walking for causes, Kinlaw said she was glad to be able to support an event that will help others.
“I wish something like this could have saved him,” she said.
Kinlaw was accompanied by her daughter-in-law Lyndretia Dial.
“I’m walking for them because minorities suffer the most with heart disease,” Dial said.
Before walking, participants warmed up by doing the Cupid Shuffle. After finishing the walk, they were greeted with healthy refreshments and cool-down yoga exercise.
Health vendors were set up to educate people on heart disease. A kid’s zone, with face painting and active games, was available.
It’s important to do the event in the area because heart disease is the No. 1 killer in Robeson County, said Liz Mileshko, the Sandhills Heart Walk director.
“Here in Robeson County we do continue to have the No. 1 cause of death be cardiovascular disease. We lose 1,334 of our folks here in Robeson County each year to heart disease,” said Dr. William Harris, Heart Walk chairman.
The main cause of the high number of deaths related to heart disease is the growing rate of diabetes in the area, he said.
“Thirty-nine percent of Robeson County citizens are overweight, 35 percent live with high blood pressure and 46 percent have high cholesterol,” Harris said. “These are all the risks of development of this nasty disease.”
“I think it really does warrant all of these efforts and more to continue our march to fight this disease and improve our outcomes,” he said.
Reach Tomeka Sinclair at 910-416-5865