PLATTSBURGH - Wanda L. Flynn doesn't just have one reason why she supports the American Heart Association. She has several.
The Morrisonville woman has been participating in the Plattsburgh Start! Heart Walk since 2004, when she first got behind the effort as a registered nurse who took care of patients with heart disease.
"I was well aware, as a registered nurse, of the impact heart disease can have on families," she said.
But, it was also from her own family experience that Flynn knew how devastating heart disease can be, she said.
"My father had heart disease and so did my husband's mother," said Flynn.
Knowing heart disease ran in both their families, Flynn and her husband, Thomas M., were somewhat prepared when Thomas was diagnosed with heart disease in 2006.
"It was still pretty frightening to hear the news," she said.
What compounded matters for her husband, said Flynn, was that he had had a kidney transplant years before and needed a heart valve replacement due to complications with hypertension.
"It was frightening that he needed to have open heart surgery done and to have a mechanical valve inserted," she said. "For a kidney transplant patient to have to undergo open heart surgery, they're already at risk. It places the transplant in jeopardy as well as other complications. It caused a lot of anxiety."
However, her husband's surgery went off without a hitch, said Flynn, and ever since he's proudly been a participant in the Heart Walk alongside his wife as a "Red Cap Survivor"- someone who participates that is a survivor of heart disease or stroke.
"We're proud to be a part of [the Heart Walk]," said Flynn, noting the event raises thousands of dollars each year for the American Heart Association. "Heart disease really impacts just about every family. It could be a child born with a heart disease. It could be siblings. It could be parents. It could be spouses. It could be friends. It could be neighbors. Heart disease affects millions of people."
"This is a great cause and a fun event for families and the community," added.
Katherine McCarthy, senior regional director for communications with the American Heart Association office in Albany, agreed.
"The money raised locally impacts research for cures for heart disease and treatments for heart disease and education," said McCarthy. "And, now, more than ever, these are hard times for everyone, but we don't want to slide back. We want to keep funding this research and spreading our message."
This year's goal is to raise $165,000. It's one McCarthy is confident can be met and in the simplest of ways - walking.
"It's a great excuse to go for a nice walk ... and it can also be a step toward prevention,"she said. "It's never too early to start preventing cardiovascular diseases."
This year's Plattsburgh Start! Heart Walk will be held at the PARC Oval next Saturday, Sept. 25, beginning with registration in the City of Plattsburgh Recreation Center at 8:30 a.m. The walk - which has options for one- and three-mile courses - will follow at 10 a.m.
Health screenings, information about heart disease and stroke and a memorial dove release will round out the morning, along with family-friendly entertainment and demonstrations.
Golfing 'fore' heart health
Want another way to support the American Heart Association?
The Barracks Golf Course, 24 Golf Course Road, will host a golf tournament this Sunday, Sept. 19, beginning at 12 p.m. Registration is $240 per four-person team, which covers greens fees, cart and gifts.
For more information or to register, contact organizer Mike Dodds at 293-7568 or 593-2792.