Last updated: May 31. 2014 10:49PM - 1325 Views
By Geri Gibbons Times Leader Correspondent

Participants walk around Kirby Park Saturday for the American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk.
Participants walk around Kirby Park Saturday for the American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk.
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WILKES-BARRE — More than 700 participants — most of them wearing brightly colored T-shirts — turned out Saturday for the Northeast Pennsylvania chapter of the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk in Kirby Park.

The annual event is a major fundraiser for the association. More than $75,000 was anticipated to be raised at the event.

“We walk for those who no longer can,” said walker Lori Jordan, remembering her mother who lost her battle with heart disease 25 years ago. “And we will continue to walk until the disease has been beaten.”

Jen Ebersole, the association’s government relations director, said although the association seeks to advance research, provide improved prevention strategies and improve cardiac medications, its real success is the additional years it provides patients to spend with their families.

Vayda Evans, 2, child chair of the event, was a recipient of the benefit of research on congenital heart disease.

Born in 2012 and diagnosed with a rare heart defect, she underwent surgery for repair of her heart at 5 months old. Today, she is a healthy active toddler, who insisted on walking in the walk, rather than riding in her stroller.

“We are very grateful to the American Heart Association for the support we received during this whole process,” Vayda’s mother, Amanda Evans, said. “We were provided with ample information and support, and afforded the opportunity to connect with other families who shared the experience of having a child with a heart defect.”

Now, Amanda and husband Jonathan want to give back, not only by their commitment to Saturday’s event and future walks, but also in their willingness to share their strength, experience and hope with other families.

Attendees at the event shared that spirit of service and support.

Local sponsors Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, Cross Valley Federal Credit Union, Commonwealth Health and Geisinger Wyoming Valley made the event possible. They set up tables, providing information on CPR, healthy living and general information. A host of activities was available for children.

“We want children to begin healthy habits early in their lives,” said Denise Sellers, the event’s executive director. “This event highlights the importance of addressing hearts disease not only medically and scientifically, but with developing healthy habits no matter what your age.”

The event was both family and pet friendly, with many participants being accompanied by a fluffy friend or two. Magic 97 provided music. RailRiders’ mascot Champ also put in an appearance.

Richard Bognar, walking as a member of the Geisinger team, said his two Dalmatians enjoyed the event. Also, a volunteer fire chief in Drums, Bognar has a full understanding of the importance of quick effective responses to medical emergency.

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