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American Heart Association’s annual heart walk draws 1,000 people

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Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2013 1:00 am | Updated: 1:27 pm, Mon May 20, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Movement is good for the heart, it’s also a good way to keep warm.

Participants danced, paced, shivered and clutched cups of coffee Saturday morning to stay warm before walking at the American Heart Association’s annual heart walk in downtown Fairbanks. A thin layer of snow covered the grass at Veteran’s Memorial Park and cold winds threatened to blow down towers of heart-shaped balloons.

“We had no idea what to expect. We thought maybe we’d get a couple hundred people. When we got there there was two inches of snow on the stage we had to sweep up with a car broom,” said Janet Bartels, regional director for the American Heart Association. “Anywhere else and they would have completely canceled it.”

She estimated about 1,000 people came and said the event raised more than $235,000, exceeding its goal. The money goes toward heart research, including treatments for the first and fourth most common causes of death in America according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease and stroke. Participants walked a 1-mile course with local musicians playing along the course. A longer 2 1/2 mile alternative was canceled because of the weather.

The event also honors survivors and people struggling with cardiovascular disease, who wore red caps during the event. In a ceremony before the walk, survivors took the stage holding balloons to symbolize people who died from cardiovascular disease.

They released the balloons during the playing of the Sarah McLachlan’s song “I will remember you.”

Teams from different companies and organizations compete to raise money for the American Heart Association in preparation for the walk. This year, the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital was the top organization, with employee teams raising $38,985. The top individual fundraising prize, as it has for the last six years, went to Sonja Campbell who raised $6,686.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at

459-7545. Follow him on Twitter, @FDNMcrime.

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