They took this cause to heart.
More than 300 do-gooders gathered at Coney Island’s MCU Park on Sept. 16 to log laps at the American Heart Association’s fourth-annual Heart Walk — sponsored by this paper’s parent company, Schneps Community News Group — to raise money and awareness about heart health. The event brought together health experts and survivors of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes to discuss the importance of preventative measures — including regular exercise and a healthy diet — according to one local who attended.
“It was such an uplifting event,” said Marine Parker Gail Levine. “Just being in the atmosphere with so many people who were involved in healthcare or were family members of survivors or people who had heart disease was great.”
The participants raised nearly $48,000 before the event and walked more than three miles in the stadium to the tunes of Emcee Sharon “La Loca” Montero from Radio 103.9 FM. And locals had the chance to learn more about their own heart health with free blood-pressure screenings courtesy of Walgreens, and nutritional demonstrations by reps from the American Heart Association.
Survivors of heart problems — including Levine, who suffered a heart attack last year — spoke to attendees about stress management and living a healthy lifestyle. Levine, a yoga teacher for the past 14 years, said she sought to impress on attendees that they could be at risk even if they thought they were living healthy lifestyles.
“I couldn’t believe it — as a vegetarian, a very active exerciser, a yoga teacher — I did not experience any of the traditional symptoms of heart disease, and yet the night I had the heart attack they told me that I had three arteries that were blocked, one of which was 99-percent blocked,” she said. “It can happen to anyone.”
Cyclones assistant general manager Gary Perone was the event chairman, and walked in honor of his father, who died in March 2017 after a long battle with heart disease — undergoing triple bypass heart surgery at 49-years-old, surviving a massive heart attack years later, and enduring multiple operations before finally succumbing at age 71.
“Heart disease remains the number-one killer of New Yorkers,” Perone said. “Unfortunately, my family and I have been personally affected by it. This cause is very personal to me.”
The event also provided lighter entertainment for youngsters, including photos with Cyclones mascots Pee Wee and Sandy the Seagull, and other Cyclones-themed activities.
But some kids participated in the walk itself, including 7-year-old Madison Becton, who walked in memory of her uncle, Zackie Rice, who died of a heart attack in 2016. Becton’s grandmother, Keshia, said she thought it was important for her granddaughter to participate in the event to raise awareness and keep her uncle’s legacy alive.
“I wanted her to experience doing something positive for a cause,” Becton said. “She said that she had a wonderful time and she was walking for her uncle.”