Early Feb. 15, families braved the cold weather to make their way to the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse to take part in this year’s Heart and Sole 5K.
The event was held to raise awareness about heart disease and raise money to provide automated external defibrillators to retirement homes. Along with these, families were able to walk the track in honor of their loved ones.
Cardiovascular diseases have been the leading cause of death in the United States for the past century, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rita Miller, community relations and marketing manager at Mosaic Life Care in Maryville, and the Mosaic Life Care team wants to change this.
Miller said the goal of the Heart and Sole 5K is to raise awareness about the issue and promote heart-healthy lifestyles.
“We had two individuals in our community that were in significant positions … and they both died within a very short time frame,” Miller said. “So after that, we decided, ‘We need to keep heart disease awareness at the forefront of our community,’ so we held this event.”
Heart and Sole has gained a large following over the years, with 75 people registered to walk.
People who wanted to participate in the walk had the option to register for the event online. With the $20 registration came a free T-shirt and the option to have a loved one’s name hung up at the front of the event. The $20 fee went toward purchasing AEDs for retirement homes.
An AED is a machine that diagnoses life-threatening heart diseases and can also send shocks to keep the heart at a stable rhythm.
About 50% of the senior citizens in Maryville have AEDs readily available to them. This realization is what made Ashleigh Waltz, a volunteer at Mosaic Life Care, want to do something more for the senior citizens in the community.
“I went to Rita Miller and Jackie Ross, and they told me that somebody from a senior citizen center had called and said that they didn’t have an AED,” Waltz said. “We thought that was kind of crazy because you want them in places that are more populated.”
From there, Waltz decided that she would work with Miller and Ross on her research project in order to raise money to provide senior citizen homes with AEDs.
Though Waltz graduated from Northwest in fall 2019, she has made headway toward her goal.
“We’ve raised $600,000 so far,” Waltz said. “The hospital donated, the Lions Club donated, and then we’ve had various other organizations donate.”
According to the American Heart Association, one AED is about $2,000. With the money that they've raised, approximately 200 AEDs can be donated to Maryville homes.
Mosaic plans to start distributing AEDs to Maryville residents after the money gets added up from Heart and Sole.
“Our goal is to start with those senior citizen centers that don’t have AEDs,” Walz said, “If we have a lot of success with this event, the idea is to keep doing this event and raising money.”
The Heart and Sole 5K also represents empowerment and moving forward for some families.
Thomas Sullivan, a guest speaker at the event, suffered from a heart attack four years ago and recovered from it. After he was released from the hospital, he decided that he needed to change something in his life so that this didn’t happen to him again.
“It’s very weird,” Sullivan said. “You have a heart attack and you stay overnight in a hospital, and then they say you’re free to go and you can return to normal exercise.”
Sullivan said that it didn’t frighten him, but it made him think that he had to change something about his life because he didn’t want to leave the people around him so soon due to something that can be changed.
One family in attendance was walking for their daughter, Briley Hull, who died from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a disease in which the left-heart structures are underdeveloped at birth.
“She died when she was three and went through multiple heart surgeries at that time,” Sarah Hull, Briley Hull’s mother said.
Every year, the Hull family participates in this event in order to keep the memory of their daughter alive and to help in the fight to raise awareness about heart disease.
“Every year we look forward to this event, and we always walk in her honor,” said Shayli Larabee, the aunt of Briley Hull.
The Mosaic Life Care team is planning to hold the Heart and Sole 5K in the Hughes Fieldhouse every year in order to attract more attention to the cause.