Walkers hit the road to fight heart disease

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Thousands of tennis shoes pounded the pavement of 2nd Street in Gulfport.  Some were marching, some were riding, and others were strolling.  No matter the style, every person had a reason for walking.

"In memory of my husband," said walker Elizabeth Welch.

"I'm twenty years out on a heart transplant," said walker Tom Atkinson.

I am walking because of my mother that passed away in March of this year, my mother in law, Flora that passed away, and a great niece that died as she was ten days old," said walker Dianna Necaise.

The American Heart Association Gulf Start Heart Walk flooded the four mile path with teams and individuals all trying to make their hearts healthier, one step at a time.  Many, like Elizabeth Welch, dedicated each step to a loved one.  Welch's husband recently passed away after suffering a heart attack.  Now she has a message for everyone.

"Just do something to change what ever it is maybe not going right with your life, lifestyle every little thing makes a difference," said Welch.

"The trauma that people go through,the heart ache of loosing a loved one, and it's best to have your heart in good condition and good shape so you don't have to go through the heart ache that we did," said Neciase who is also a cancer survivor.

For Tom Atkinson, the walk is a testament to the power of research and support.

"Twenty years ago I wouldn't have been here if it hadn't been for this transplant. So obviously I'm a promoter of the heart fund and always will be. I've had twenty extra years of life because of that," said Atkinson.

Each team also raised money that will support heart and stroke research. This year's event raised over $300,000.

There were also several heart healthy competitions before the walk.  In the CEO Heart Healthy weight loss challenge, twelve South Mississippi executives competed to lose the most weight.  WLOX's Brad Kessie walked away the "biggest loser."  

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