Collier County Start! Heart Walk raises $300K for cardiovascular research

Brisk morning temperatures couldn’t stop an estimated 4,000 Collier County area residents from lacing up their athletic shoes and joining the Southwest Florida American Heart Association’s Start! Heart Walk on Saturday, Nov. 6, at Naples’ Cambier Park.

The annual event raises money to support the fight against heart disease and stroke, America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers, respectively. This year’s walk raised about $300,000, and the figure continues to grow, said Regan Goldberg, vice president of Southwest Florida Field Operations for the American Heart Association.

Collier County Start! Heart Walk participant Shelly Church understands the need for such research.

Church lost her teenage son Kyle Fernstrom to heart disease in February 2005. Together, she and Kyle completed nine walks; Saturday’s walk was Church’s sixth walk without her son. But Kyle remains well represented in spirit: He served as the manager for the Naples High School basketball team, and numerous members of the school’s team participate in the walk each year. Also as part of the event, Church organizes a team of some 100 friends, relatives and business associates to walk the 5K-course in honor of Kyle.

She notes that it might have been the money raised by the American Heart Association 30 years ago that funded the research that helped her son Kyle live. She’s grateful for that.

“It’s really critical to raise money right now because we need research for heart disease,” Church said.

The Start! Heart Walk was also an opportunity to recognize Anna Isaacs, a network service technician at Naples’ Physicians Regional Healthcare System. Isaacs was named Honorary Lifestyle Champion for the 2010 Collier County Start! Heart Walk after shedding 50 pounds, a weight loss she credits to regular walks and a healthy diet. Her decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle was prompted primarily because she wanted to set a positive example for her young daughter, Saniyah, who also joined her at the Collier County Start! Heart Walk.

Each day, nearly 2,400 Americans die from a cardiovascular disease, an average of one death every 37 seconds. A leading risk factor for heart attack and stroke is lack of physical activity. Research has also found that individuals may gain two hours of life expectancy for every one hour of regular, vigorous exercise they do. Last year, more than 1 million walkers raised more than $106 million in 425 Start! Heart Walks across the country.

The annual success of the Collier County Start! Heart Walk is due in part to cause sponsors Physicians Regional Healthcare System and Arthrex; an anonymous donor in memory of Kyle Fernstrom; and numerous local sponsors, including the Naples Daily News, Wink News, Moorings Park, NCH Healthcare System, Azteca America, Florida Weekly, Comcast, Life in Naples and Clear Channel Radio. Start! Heart Walk is nationally sponsored by Subway Restaurants.

For information on the Collier County Start! Heart Walk, call the American Heart Association at (239) 498-9288 or visit www.collierheartwalk.org.

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