Heart Run & Walk makes triumphant return


WHITESBORO — When Steve Gassner asked if anyone missed the snow, it was quiet. But when the countdown ended and the music at the start line of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk started up again, there was cheering and laughing and dancing as Utica’s tradition returned in person for the first time in two years.

The run and walk were at a new location, Accelerate Sports in Whitesboro, and at a new date — rather than the snowy March that Gassner referred to, it took place on Saturday.

“It was great to see everyone today,” said Gassner, the logistics chair for America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, and board chair of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association in the Mohawk Valley. “We saw survivors, and people walking in honor of lost loved ones. America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk has helped improve cardiac care, in our community, and nationwide. We should be proud of the work we’ve done, and after 15 years of volunteering with America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, this one was very meaningful. It’s great that our community came back together for such an important cause.”

In addition to the five mile run and the three mile walk, the WKTV Heart Telethon, presented by Scalzo, Zogby & Wittig took place on Friday and Saturday. The WIBX Heart Radiothon, presented by Slocum-Dixon Medical Group, took place Friday and Saturday too.

America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk 2022 has raised $430,025 so far. Donations will be accepted until June 30 at UticaHeartRunWalk.org.

For information, email heartofutica@heart.org.

Among those attending
was Terry Vilardi, a heart
survivor there to help and comfort those who going through the same thing he went through.

“I had a chance of facing death,” Vilardi said. “If I didn’t have open heart surgery, I would have died. I had five bypasses and three days later, I had complications and my lungs collapsed.”

“After everything, I decided to volunteer at the hospital,” he continued. “I went through depression. Part of the reason why I ended up like that was because of heart disease on mother’s side of the family and the other half was my own stupidity. I quit smoking the day of the surgery and haven’t touched them since. It’s been 17 years now.”

For the last 15 years, Vilardi has volunteered at Mohawk Valley Health Systems, counseling heart patients before and after surgery, to help people and let them know someone else has been in their shoes.

“They need that support,” Vilardi added.

Frank Mastrovito, owner and president of Mastrovito Hyundai is chairing America’s Greatest Heart & Run in 2023.

“This is a huge chance for our family to give back to the community that has supported us in such a strong and loving way,” Mastrovito said. “It’s for a cause that is near and dear to my family’s heart, and so many families in our community. “


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