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Walkers have a heart for cardio diseases

August 28, 2011
Special to the Town Crier
Thousands from Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties will celebrate life, remember loved ones and raise funds for the American Heart Association on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the 2011 Heart Walk held at the Watson and Tressel Training Site at Youngstown State University. The money raised by individuals and teams joining together to battle America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers -- cardiovascular disease and stroke -- will fund lifesaving research and education programs throughout the country geared at reducing the risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Coworkers, families, friends and heart disease and stroke survivors will be able to take advantage of health screenings, educational information and activities for children. Activities and registration begin at 9 a.m. and the Heart Walk begins at 10:10 a.m.

Wesley Prout, president of Prout Boiler Heating and Welding, is this year’s event chairman. As a resident and businessman dedicated to the health and success of the Youngstown area, Prout encourages the community to get involved and help reduce the number of deaths in the United States, more than 900,000 annually, that are due to cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

“Our community is strongest when we take the opportunity to stand together. When we’re trying to do something as impactful as fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, I know the Youngstown area residents can make a difference if we all join together at the Heart Walk. As chairman of the event this year, I am so proud to help lead our neighbors and local businesses in our efforts to embrace a healthier lifestyle as we share the message about the seriousness of heart disease and stroke with those in our back yard,” said Prout.

One of the many who have been helped by advances in cardiovascular research is the 2011 Youngstown Area Heart Walk Heart Child, seven-year-old Alyson Smith, who was diagnosed with aortic stenosis when she was just one year old. The membrane under her aorta was restricting the blood flow to the rest of her body.

The day before the surgery, Alyson and her parents arrived at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland to prepare. While there, her parents explained to her the reason she was having the surgery was to repair her heart. They told Alyson her heart was saying “whoosh-whoosh” when a healthy heart should say “bump-bump.” They assured her that the surgery would fix her heart so it would “bump” like it should.

The surgery on June 15, 2010 took about five hours, and when Alyson awoke from surgery the first thing she asked was, “Is my heart bumpy now?” Thankfully, it was. The murmur was gone, the dark circles under her eyes had disappeared and there was once again color in her face.

One week after the surgery, Alyson’s cardiologists declared the surgery a success. With oxygen-rich blood freely flowing through her body, Alyson was given clearance to get back to being a kid about six weeks later. The only way someone who hadn’t heard of Alyson’s story would know she had open-heart surgery would be if they saw the fading pink scar running down the center of her chest. The Smiths, along with family and friends, will be participating in the Heart Walk as part of Alyson’s Bumpy Hearts Team.

In addition to community teams and walkers like the Smiths, sponsorship from health-conscious local businesses and organizations make this event possible.

Along with raising funds, the Heart Walk encourages the community to take steps toward a healthier lifestyle by incorporating physical activity into their lives. As part of that effort, the American Heart Association honors community members with Lifestyle Change Awards for those individuals who have made significant strides in improving their eating habits and cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, increasing the amount of physical activity in their lives, etc. Nominees are currently being accepted. To nominate an individual for the Lifestyle Change Award, please call Heart Walk director Allison Oltmann at 330-318-1002.

Those attending the Heart Walk have the chance to honor those loved ones lost to cardiovascular disease or stroke, and survivors at the event will receive red caps in honor of their accomplishments.

Across the nation, more than 1.5 million people will participate in Heart Walk events in over 500 locations. The Heart Walk has raised about $600 million nationwide since it was launched in 1994. Research funded by the Heart Walk, and other American Heart Association events, has yielded major advances, such as the heart-lung machine, CPR, life-extending drugs, pacemakers, bypass surgery and a variety of surgical techniques to repair heart defects.

For more information on the Youngstown Area Heart Walk, please call 330-318-1002 or visit

Article Photos

Photo special to the Town Crier
Preparing for this year's Heart Walk are Heart Child parents Kathy Keaggy Smith and Kevin Smith; 2011 Heart Walk Chairman Wes Prout; Heart Walk emcee Thomas John Meister; Theresa Weakley; and 2011 Heart Child Alyson Smith and her sister Emilee Smith. The annual Heart Walk is set for Sept. 17 at Youngstown State University.



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