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1,500 attend North Country Heart Walk

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The color red came with multiple meanings Saturday at the annual North Country Heart Walk.

Red scarves and caps were worn by heart disease survivors, and red jackets, shirts and decorative hearts, among other accessories, were worn by the estimated 1,500 people who attended the walk at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds off Coffeen Street.

Organizers of the walk sought to raise $220,000 for research and advocacy for the American Heart Association.

Walk Chairman Thomas H. Carman said red also signified prevention, as it served as a reminder for people to help maintain heart health. Mr. Carman, chief executive officer of Samaritan Medical Center, said Samaritan staff was on hand to offer free health screenings, and the hospital also had a team of about 80 people.

“We’re really going to try to increase awareness for everyone,” he said. “The partnership between Samaritan and the American Heart Association is important. The Heart Association does some wonderful work on education.”

Prevention was the focus Saturday, as hundreds of people got their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels checked. Kristy Smorol, American Heart Association communications director, said there were free healthy snacks, a children’s fun zone and free cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.

Participants also were encouraged to have a photograph taken with props after writing a pledge to exercise more, eat better and commit to a healthier lifestyle. Within a few months, those photos will be sent back so people can see how they have changed physically.

“Walking is a great exercise for your heart health,” Ms. Smorol said. “Walking is better than sitting around.”

Donna Kinney, the 2013 North Country Heart walk co-honoree, said she tries to walk regularly and pays close attention to her heart health. After she had her blood pressure checked at last year’s Heart Walk, she found out she was in congestive heart failure.

“If it wasn’t for the American Heart Association, I wouldn’t be here,” she said.

Also recognized was fellow co-honoree Brody S. Beckwith, 3, son of Melissa K. and Jeremy J. Beckwith. Brody also was in congestive heart failure and already has had surgery. He will be scheduled for another operation before he enters kindergarten.

After Ms. Kinney and Brody were introduced, all heart disease survivors in attendance, from infants to senior citizens, lined the stage as they held red carnations. Among those survivors was 7-month-old Brenna R. Flynn, daughter of C. Zack Flynn and Kiley J. Taylor, Chaumont, and 4-month-old Dominic A. Fazio, son of Matthew J. and Erin A. Fazio, Watertown.

Survivors exited the stage and immediately led the way to either a one- or three-mile walk around the fairgrounds or nearby Jefferson Community College.

“This is amazing,” Ms. Smorol said. “We’re getting everyone moving. That’s one of the biggest things about the Heart Walk, is to get (people) moving. That’s what it’s all about.”

During the event, Mr. Carman announced Paul F. Barton, Westelcom president, as the walk’s 2014 chairman.

Mr. Carman said he expected to reach the fundraising goal, as walk teams and sponsors have been generous with donations this year. Ms. Smorol said about $215,000 was raised, but money may continue to trickle in.

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