10/03/10 — Heart walk largest ever

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Heart walk largest ever

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 3, 2010 1:50 AM

Red hearts adorned a portion of the fence at Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Saturday as the 200 or so walkers gathered on the first real cool morning of fall for a spirited three-mile walk.

Walking to raise funds for the American Heart Association, the 15 teams participating in the Mount Olive Area Heart Walk Saturday were also walking in memory and in honor of friends and family affected by heart disease -- and in some cases, they were walking for themselves.

"In 2006 I had a stint put in. That's the main reason I walk," said Arthur Mitchell, member of the Emmaus Baptist Church team.

Walking beside Anne Best, they said they also walk for their former pastor who suffered from a heart attack and who had a grandson born with a heart defect.

"I didn't realize so many people were actually affected by heart disease," Denise Elliott said as she walked the three-mile course from the Mt. Olive Pickle, down Center Street, to Old Seven Springs Road to Carver Elementary and back. "Being African American, diabetes and heart disease are something you're used to, but it's just us. It's everybody. There's just so many people, not just blood, but friends, too."

But, participants said, the walk was about more than remembering those lost to the disease, it was also about working to make sure that in the future, others aren't -- that it's about raising money for research, as well as to educate people about the causes of heart disease.

Unfortunately, said Ernie Kirby and Stephanie Rose, walking with the Goldsboro Harley Owners Chapter, too often heart disease is overlooked, despite still being a leading cause of death. Locally, they said, even though there were about 200 people at Saturday's Heart Walk, it's still a small turnout compared to events like Relay for Life, which focuses on cancer.

"I don't think it gets as much attention," said Kirby, who lost his wife in 2004, who had suffered from a heart defect since birth, after a transplant failed to take. "Heart disease, people have it for years and many never even know it. Cancer is more sudden, more visible."

But through efforts such as Saturday's, people are trying to change that -- trying to raise awareness of the problem of heart disease -- and the Mount Olive Heart Walk has long been one of the most successful in the region.

This year the walk's goal is $50,000, a large amount for a group it's size, but an amount it came close to hitting in 2009.

As of the end of the walk, however, organizers could only say the had more than $20,000 in hand, acknowledging that even though they were still counting, they hadn't done as well as they'd hoped.

But, said co-organizer Peggy VanVoltenburg, their amount isn't due until Dec. 30.

"We'll still be fundraising until we make the goal. It's been hard this year. We're hoping that maybe with the new teams we've gotten, they can help pick up up some of the slack," Mrs. VanVoltenburg.