PLATTSBURGH - The annual Plattsburgh Heart Walk is one week away, and it's one day Julie M. Rowe has circled on her calendar well in advance.
The 43-year-old Ellenburg Depot resident has been busily collecting sponsorships for her participation in the walk, scheduled for next Saturday, Sept. 26. Currently, Rowe is the top individual fundraiser, collecting more than $3,600 and surpassing her fundraising goal of $2,000 nearly two times over.
Rowe began her participation in the Plattsburgh Heart Walk four years ago as a member of the Wyeth Research - Chazy Team, of which she serves as captain today. Though she has never suffered from a heart condition, when Rowe began her involvement, it was because she simply wanted to give back to the community.
"Each time I heard of an individual that had suffered a heart attack or stroke, or passed at a young age, so unexpectedly, I found that I felt helpless," said Rowe. "This is just one way I can stop feeling helpless."
Since Rowe first became involved, the amount of money she has been able to raise has grown. The first goal she set for herself was $1,000. When she surpassed that, the next year she set her goal for $2,000. When she surpassed that, she set the bar $1 higher for the following year because, as she said, "every dollar counts."
Raising the money hasn't been easy, but Rowe has done it through bake sales, pasta sales, raffles, book fairs and even golf and volleyball tournaments.
"The more and more I got involved, the more passionate I became with meeting and exceeding the goal I had set," said Rowe.
As Rowe has become more involved, she's managed to get others involved as well.
"This year, we have most of the same team members, but have encouraged a few more to walk with us," said Rowe, noting there are 11 walkers on her team this year. "I value the networking that I have been able to do [as team captain] and find ways to reach out to some of my fellow teams, either to run events together or support their efforts. "
"As for being part of my team, there is definitely a sense of pride in what our team was able to accomplish," she added.
And, though Sept. 26 is the date of this year's Heart Walk, it's also a date that has special meaning for Rowe. Her father had a heart attack Sept. 26, 1996. Though he survived and went on to have bypass surgery, it was still a traumatic event for Rowe and her family.
"We lost him in 2001, but we would never have had the chance to see him after his heart attack in the first place if it had not been for the technology available then," said Rowe.
And, so, Rowe continues to walk to raise money for the American Heart Association so research can go on.
"My efforts are not only for my family, my friends, my neighbors, but yours as well," said Rowe. " When I listen or read about the stories of survivors, I hope that I can hear one new survivor year as a result of something I was a part of ... as every dollar raised can be the one that is needed to create a new success story."
The goal of this year's walk is to raise $150,000, according to Faith Osborne Long, regional director for the Northeast affiliate of the American Heart Association.
The current amount raised through pledges and donations has surpassed the $100,000 mark, she said, with the hope momentum will continue to help surpass last year's amount raised of $144,500.
"The biggest growth for the 2009 Heart Walk has been in friends asking friends to come out an d walk with them. We have great support from company based teams - over 120 area companies are supporting Heart Walk teams," said Osborne Long. "But, we also have many family and friends teams who often walk in memory or in honor of someone very important to them in their lives."
Asking others to join is the best way to see the Heart Walk be successful, she added.
"Until research can find a cure, we have to help ourselves and those that cannot," said Rowe.
The Plattsburgh Heart Walk will be held next Saturday at the City of Plattsburgh Gymnasium complex and the PARC Oval, located on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by an opening ceremony. The ceremony will include recognition of survivors, a memorial dove release and a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m., officially starting the walk.
Other events during the day include a community health fair, kids zone activities, a television raffle drawing and recognition of the top fundraising walkers and teams. Celebrity emcees will be Lana Wilder from Star 92.9 and meteorologist Nick Johnson from Fox 44 News.
Those interested in more information about the Heart Walk, including how to register, may call Osborne Long at 569-9387 or via e-mail at email@example.com or visit www.plattsburghheartwalk.org.