According to information found on the American Heart Association's Heart Walk website, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, taking one life every 38 seconds, and killing more women than all forms of cancer combined. In addition, congenital cardiovascular defects are the most common cause of infant death from birth defects.
Last year, 2,000 participants made the 2011 Youngstown Area Heart Walk a huge success in terms of both awareness and fundraising, bringing to light the often unforeseen issue of heart disease, and raising $196,000. Amongst them, the Sonnett and Seiser families, both of whom know firsthand the importance of that awareness.
"The families go back a long time," said Joan Sonnett, who lost her husband Fred Sonnett to a heart valve infection nine years ago when he was just 54 years old. Just five years later, Mark Seiser, the late husband of Karen Seiser, lost his life to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Pictured during the 2011 Youngstown Area Heart Walk are Matt Sonnet, Joan Sonnet, Mark Sonnet, Halle Seiser, Karen Seiser, Scott Seiser, and Matthew Seiser. The families will join forces again on Saturday, Sept. 15 for the 2012 Youngstown Area Heart Walk. This year’s Youngstown Area Heart Child is six year-old Alexa Kucher. The daughter of Bill and Jennifer Kucher, Alexa is a survivor living with Hypoplastic Right Heart Sydrome, a congenital heart defect.
Like Sonnett, Seiser was 54; like his friend, appeared healthy and exercised; and like half of the one in 500 affected by the disorder, Seiser was asymptomatic.
"Our husbands knew each other and were good friends," said Sonnett, who began participating in the Heart Walk the year following her husband's death. Seiser walked on Sonnett's team in support of her friend, and following the death of her own husband, the two families joined forces.
This year's Team SOS Save Someone's Heart, has grown to approximately 80 participants, with the Sonnet and Seiser kids, Matthew and Mark Sonnett, and Scott, Matthew, and Hallie Seiser, designing the team's T-shirts.
"I think it's special for all of our kids we walk in memory," said Sonnett, adding that for all of them, it's about the good the two men did in their lives. The women both recall their husbands' frequent late arrivals home from work as they would always take the time to do that something extra for someone.
Fred Sonnett formerly served as the executive director of the Burdman Group, and Mark Seiser was a physical therapist throughout area schools, including Canfield.
Both Seiser, a tutor at Canfield Village Middle School, and Sonnett, retired from CVMS, are quick to note their gratitude for the numerous teachers, students and friends who continue to offer their support to the cause, walking annually. In addition, Seiser shared that the Youngstown State University Physical Therapy Department, in which her daughter Hallie is currently a second year student, will participate in the event.
Serving the Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties, the 2012 Youngstown Area Heart Walk will be held Saturday, Sept. 15, beginning at the Watson and Tressel Training Site on the campus of Youngstown State University.
Activities for the event, which was chaired by Mark Graham, executive vice president of Farmers National Bank, along with Mike Naffah of Naffah Hospitality Group, will begin at 9 a.m. The opening ceremony starts at 10 a.m., and the walk, which takes place along the university campus, is to conclude at noon.
The goal for this year's event, set at $241,000, has raised the bar considerably. Participants like the Sonnett and Seiser families will walk for their husbands, their wives, brothers, sisters, and friends. They will walk in honor of those whose lives have been affected or taken by heart disease, and they will walk to ensure that through awareness and research, the future will hold greater hope.