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Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk gets hearts beating for a good cause, April 17

HUDSON VALLEY — Area residents looking to combine invigorating exercise with a worthwhile cause are invited to register for the 2021 Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk Digital Experience on Saturday, April 17.

Organized by the American Heart Association, the aim of this annual walk is to raise awareness of heart health and disease, which plays into the American Heart Association’s (AHA) main priority of fundraising for research toward both. 

As senior director of communications for the AHA, Katherine McCarthy put the significance of both the Heart Walk and heart health research into perspective by pointing out that “in some way or another, we are all affected by it.” If heart disease is the number one killer, she said, chances are that everyone knows someone who has either died from heart disease or has been impacted by heart health issues.

“The good news is it’s 80% preventable,” McCarthy said. “By coming out and supporting [the Heart Walk], you get a little activity, you get to prevent heart disease in yourself and you’re also helping the community… and then when you see the survivors there and you see the people there, you know these are the people you’re helping.”

This year marks the walk’s second year of being a digital experience, though the AHA has been pleased to see that the shift from a physical, in-person event to a digital platform hasn’t dissuaded people from joining in the walk. In previous years before the COVID-19 pandemic, McCarthy said the in-person event would gather thousands of people in one central location. With the digital experience, participants now have the opportunity to run, walk, bike or do whatever kind of exercise they want wherever they are. Another benefit to holding the event virtually is that participants can raise awareness of the Heart Walk and engage with one another by posting on the social media.

Every year, McCarthy said the Heart Walk selects an individual from the local business community to serve as its volunteer chairperson. As part of their responsibilities, the chairperson will reach out to other businesses to generate corporate sponsors; they can also invite their fellow employees to participate in the walk. This year, Vinny Oppedisano, vice president and senior business banking relationship manager at M&T Bank, has been selected to chair the walk. Additionally, the 2021 Heart Walk will honor  heart disease survivors Gleason Truesdell and Rosemarie Williams.

With this year’s goal set to raise $275,000, individuals can register at www.DutchessUlsterHeartWalk.org. Though the actual walk will be held on Saturday, April 17, the event will be preceded by a Week of Wellness that will feature a different health theme from Monday, April 12, through Friday, April 16. All of the Week of Wellness activities as well as the Heart Walk Celebration Saturday event will be listed on the “Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk” Facebook event page on the “@AHANewYork” Facebook page.

There are no fees to participate in the Heart Walk, though McCarthy said the AHA is hoping for donations. She also mentioned that an activity tracker has been added to the Heart Walk website and a Heart Walk app has been created to track participants’ activity.

Fore more information, go to www.DutchessUlsterHeartWalk.org.

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