Heart Walk raises awareness

PARKERSBURG – More than 200 people gathered in the warm sunshine Saturday to make the 2013 Wood-Washington Heart Walk a success in City Park.

“We have been very lucky with the weather for our biggest fundraiser,” said Sarah Hambley, Heart Walk Director for the American Heart Association. “With better weather we have a better opportunity to reach our goals of raising awareness of cardiovascular disease and to help people live healthier lives.”

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America and West Virginia with more than 2,000 deaths per day as one in every three deaths is from heart disease or stroke, said Kim Ward, director of the walk.

For the last 15 years, the American Heart Association in Parkersburg has coordinated the walk in an effort to raise awareness for people to live healthier lives as well as to raise funds. The money raised will help research in the effort to develop medications and other preventive steps.

The goal for this year’s walk was $70,000. The final amount raised was during the walk on Saturday was not available.

“We have done well this year,” Hambley said. “We don’t have a total, yet, but we have raised money to help not only nationally, but locally.”

Each year the walk honors a survivor of cardiovascular disease. This year’s event chose to pay tribute to 13-year-old Kate Liston, of Little Hocking.

Hambley said coordinators of the event like to honor children because it shows the public that cardiovascular disease is not something only adults develop, that anyone can have it.

In April 2012, Liston passed out and had a grand mal seizure during a basketball tournament. This event led to her diagnosis of two arachnoid cysts – cerebrospinal fluid-filled sacs that are located between the brain or spinal cord – and Long QT syndrome (LQTS), a heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats, which may trigger a sudden fainting spell or seizure and sudden death.

“Kate was always a healthy child and into sports, so this really surprised us,” said her mother, Melissa Liston. “Most people with Long QT syndrome don’t live beyond their first – and only – attack, which is frightening.”

, but Kate has chosen to use her life to help others.”

This was the second time for her team, Kate’s Kause, to participate in the heart walk and raised money.

“God gave me a second chance for a reason and most people don’t get that,” Kate Liston said. “I want to do what I can to help.”

Last week, the teen helped 611 other young athletes receive electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) tests as part of their yearly physical to rule out heart conditions.

“Kids don’t realize they are capable of so much and if we give them the chance, they can touch so many lives,” said Melissa Liston. “Kate is a pretty amazing kid and we are proud of everything she is doing.”

While the family-friendly event’s main purpose was to raise funds for heart disease and stroke research and education, it also put focus on survivors.

“We are also here to celebrate survivors,” Ward said.

All survivors at the event wore red hats to signify who they were.

The walk in Parkersburg is one in three in West Virginia and roughly 350 events nationwide with more than 1 million participants working to raise funds to save lives from heart disease and stroke.