Although the pandemic prevented participants from joining in the traditional America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, it did not stop folks from Mohawk Valley Community College to Barneveld to the New Hartford’s Rayhill Trail or the Mohawk River Trail in Rome from supporting this key regional fundraiser on Saturday.
Hundreds of area residents participated remotely, running, walking or even getting in a few minutes on the treadmill, to kick off a virtual event — which will run until June 30. As of noon Saturday, the event had already raised $425,000 to fight heart disease and stroke.
Steve Gassner is the logistics chair of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, a role he has held for years. “There is usually a large crew of us in the gym at Utica College, on the Walk route, at the start line,” Gassner, an administrative officer at the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and chair of the Mohawk Valley Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, said. “I know we all keep saying that everything changed this year and that’s an understatement. I’m glad that so many people got out and walked or ran on their own, because the thing that didn’t change is the need to keep fighting heart disease and stroke. We will keep fundraising until June 30 so that we can all live longer, healthier lives.”
Jon Rennie received this year’s Lifestyle Change Award. This is the 10th year that Sovena USA, of Rome, presented the award to someone who made dramatic improvements to their health. Rennie’s brother Michael nominated him for the award, writing that Jon Rennie began a health journey after learning that he had a genetic mutation that has led to pacemakers at early ages, early death, cardiomyopathy and even heart transplants in the family. Jon changed his life, his brother wrote, so his daughter wouldn’t have to think of losing her father at a young age.
Donations can be made until June 30 at UticaHeartRunWalk.org, or by mailing them to the American Heart Association, 125 Business Park Drive, Suite 106, Utica, NY 13502. To inquire about hours that the American Heart Association office is open to drop off donations, contact HeartofUtica@heart.org or call 315-580-3956.