MATTOON — Lake Land College will host on April the 2017 East Central Illinois Heart Walk, which will honor Mattoon infant Zale Walk, who is a heart transplant recipient.
Teams of walkers are being sought for the Heart Walk, a fundraising and community outreach event that is part of the American Heart Association’s fight against heart disease and stroke.
“It is a celebration of those who are survivors and a tribute to those we have lost,” said Carol Floyd, field operations director for the association.
Floyd, a former Mattoon resident, said Zale has been chosen as the honorary chairman for this year’s Heart Walk because his parents, Vince and Katie Walk, have a wonderful story to tell. She said this story shows the local impact of the type of research and development that the Heart Association funds.
Before he was born on April 18, Zale’s parents learned that he needed a heart transplant due to a valve defect. A little more than four months after his birth, Zale received his new heart and became the 250th transplant recipient at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
“That is his other birthday. That is his heart birthday,” Vince Walk said of the Aug. 22 transplant.
Vince Walk said his son has been doing well, despite a weakened immune system, and has been home since late January. Walk said he has appreciated all the support he and his family have received from the community, including his students at Mattoon High School.
Walk said he also appreciates the Heart Association’s efforts to fund research for treating heart-related ailments and he hopes that Zale’s involvement with the Heart Walk will help bring more attention to these efforts.
“You never know when you are going to be faced with something like that,” Walk said.
The association holds Heart Walks as fundraisers for research, education and awareness programs in the fight against heart disease and stroke, which the association reports are “America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers.”
Heart Walk teams are comprised of heart disease and stroke survivors, employees from local businesses, and other community members. To receive this year’s Heart Walk T-shirt, walkers are encouraged to raise $100 or more by collecting donations from the community.
Floyd said the Heart Walk has been held indoors at various local venues in past years, but Lake Land’s offer of the use of its campus will provide a great opportunity for an outdoor walk.
“The original intent was to get people outside and moving as a family,” Floyd said. “Exercise and diet are key to heart healthy lifestyles.”
Jean Anne Grunloh, senior executive to Lake Land’s president, said the college is honored to host this year’s Heart Walk.
Grunloh said the campus will provide a beautiful venue for the walk and the West Building’s large Farm Credit Room can provide indoor space for the opening ceremonies and other activities. She added that the walk could be moved into this building’s wide corridors if it rains.
In addition, Grunloh said the Heart Walk will provide a great community service opportunity for Lake Land and its Allied Health Division students.
“We want to promote heart-healthy lifestyles. We serve students and we serve the community, so we though it was appropriate for us to do that,” Grunloh said of hosting the Heart Walk.
Registration is set for noon April 29 at the West Building, followed by the opening ceremonies at 1 p.m. and the walk at 1:30 p.m.
This year’s event will feature half-mile and three-mile walks. Booths at the walk will offer health screenings and more. Other activities will include a tribute wall, a Survivor Lunch provided by Subway, nutritious snacks, “Hands Only CPR” lessons, and team photos.
Subway and Walgreens are national Heart Walk sponsors. Local sponsors include Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, First Mid Illinois Bank & Trust, First Mid Illinois Insurance, and Consolidated Communications. Bub McCullough and Renee Fonner of Cromwell Radio Group’s 101.3 WMCI will be the emcees.