PLATTSBURGH When it comes to supporting research for heart-related conditions and illnesses, the North Country has well, heart. The annual American Heart Associations Start! Heart Walk, held last Saturday at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh Field House, saw nearly 1,200 registered participants who, as of Tuesday, raised more than $144,000. Faith Osborne-Long, who serves as regional director for the Northeast affiliate of the American Heart Association, said the event exceeded expectations. I think this is our best year ever, said Osborne-Long. The attendance and participation made up a great part of what overwhelmed Osborne-Long and other AHA supporters, but what really spoke to her were the stories shared during the event, she said. Christopher Goheens, a 7-year-old congenital heart defect survivor and second-grader at Peru Primary School, was among the honored guests at the Heart Walk. Christopher led the group of survivors of heart-related illnesses to the main stage in the field house prior to the start of the walk and thanked the crowd for supporting research for conditions like theirs. Darlene Farrar-Mitchell of Elizabethtown was among the survivors who turned out for the walk. Her story of survivorship is two-fold, starting when she was 16. It was then Darlene suffered a heart attack that she described as coming from nowhere. I played soccer, I was a cheerleader, I played softball. I did it all, said Darlene, who was found to have congenital heart disease. Several years down the road, after the births of her two sons, Connor and Brock Marvin, Darlene faced another heart-related attack that left her on the brink of survival again. In 2001, Darlene suffered a stroke while in Europe. They didnt know if she was going to make it, she was in that bad of shape, said Darlenes husband, Dennis Mitchell. They didnt even think shed be able to walk again, added Connor. Darlene was flown back to the United States where she was taken to Fletcher-Allen Health Care in Burlington. The stroke left her partially paralyzed on her right side and made it difficult for her to communicate. However, through years of physical therapy, the implantation of a defibrillator and pacemaker, and her own resolve, Darlene has been determined to not only survive, but live her life to the fullest. She doesnt want me to open the door for her on her vehicle or anything like that. She wants to do things on her own, said Dennis. Shes strong-willed. Im a survivor, said Darlene. The Marvin-Mitchell family was devastated again earlier this year, when Brock suffered a heart attack. Brock, who was 14 at the time, went into cardiac arrest and had to be flown to Fletcher-Allen. He has since had a defibrillator implanted like his mother, and is doing well, said his mother.