American Heart Association Heart Walk Set Draws 3,000+ at Lake Welch Beach, Harriman State Park

More than 3,000 Orange, Rockland & Sullivan residents walked for their hearts last weekend at the Tri-County Heart Walk at Lake Welch Beach at Harriman State Park. The Heart Walk is the American Heart Association’s (AHA) largest annual fund raiser – last year’s event raised more than $365,000 for AHA research and programs.

“Heart disease and stroke are the number one and four killers in the Hudson Valley. We have all been touched by heart disease in some way. I share in the American Heart Association’s mission of reducing the deadly threat of these illnesses and improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans,” said Robert S. Ross, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital is chair of the event.

“At St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital we see how heart disease touches our community’s families and employees. There is more that can be done to save lives,” he said, “The Heart Walk is symbolic, representing the community joining together to prevent heart disease.”

Teams with names like “Angela’s Angels,” “Brian’s Shooting Stars,” and “Super Heroes,” gathered walkers – and donations – for today’s event.

Frank Vincent Catalano, wearing a red Super Heart Hero cape, was celebrated as the Junior Celebration of Life Heart Walk Honoree. Little “Frankie,” not yet two and a half years old, was born with a serious congenital heart defect, “Tetralogy of Fallot,” that causes life-threatening low blood oxygen levels and breathing trouble. He had open heart surgery to repair the problem in February of 2010 when he was just three months old. He was discharged after only eight days in the hospital.

“We never thought our family would be affected by heart disease,” said Victoria Catalano, his mother and leader of the Super Heroes team. She said Frank Vincent might need future heart surgeries but right now, he’s an active little toddler, “He is our little Superman!”

Congenital cardiovascular defects, also known as congenital heart defects (CHD), are the No. 1 birth defect in the U.S. and the No. 1 killer of infants with birth defects. The American Heart Association’s funding for pediatric cardiac research is second only to the federal government. Funding for these research awards comes from community-based events like the Heart Walk.

The family and friends of Angela Smith-Quattrocchi remembered her as she was celebrated as Memorial Honoree. She died on December 19, 1999 at the age of 33 from a fatal heart attack. She had three young children at the time.

Chris Catania, 55 years old, shared his personal story of surviving a heart attack. He had emergency angioplasty and two stents were inserted to open clogged arteries. He has made lifestyle changes to prevent further heart problems.

“I’ve learned how to stay fit, eat healthier and take better care of myself,” said Catania, “I see the whole world differently now. I appreciate life so much.”

Good Samaritan Hospital, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, St. Anthony Community Hospital, Orange Regional Medical Center, Bon Secours Community Hospital and Helen Hayes Hospital are all in a friendly competition for the Heart Walk Hospital Cup, given to the hospital raising the most money for heart research and programs. The winner will be announced at a future awards party.

Donations can still be made online at www.tricountyheartwalk.org . The Heart Walk is sponsored nationally by Subway and Jenny Craig, and locally by Bon Secours Charity Health System, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, Cumulus Radio and Hudson Valley Magazine.