GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Rain or shine, thousands of people put on their walking shoes and headed to Jones Park in Gulfport Saturday morning. The annual Heart Walk had its highest fundraising goal ever at $650,000.
Some heart disease survivors and their families said people need to take the warning signs seriously and seek medical help quickly.
Roslyn Peterson said she never pictured herself taking part in the Heart Walk as a heart disease survivor. She said while on vacation she spent days treating the pain in her chest as indigestion before finally calling her doctor.
"They told me I need to get to the emergency room," said Peterson. "Being hard headed, because all this time I'm thinking I just have a bad case of indigestion, I drove back to Biloxi went to the hospital at Keesler. They kept me, and I wind up in long run having two stints placed in me. I had 95 percent blockage in my artery."
The Heart Walk is at time to honor family and friends lost and celebrate lives son through research and technology. Stacy Wasworth said before her father, Charlie Underwood, suffered a heart attack her relatives never thought it could happen to their family.
"We never really thought it would affect him the way that it did," Wasworth said. "He was always so active in church and all of the youth activities that he was involved in. So it kind of took us by surprise."
Heart Walk officials said most of the money raised stays in the local area.
Ed Day is the chairman of 2012 Heart Walk. "A lot of people are affected by heart disease and stroke. We all have relatives and friends that have been affected by it over the years. And this is a phenomenal event to raise money to support those and improve our health here on the coast."
"These dollars go to research," Day said. "They go to educating people on how to live healthier lives so they can be proactive."
Heart disease survivors said people need to take steps toward preventing heart disease and should never ignore the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
"When you feel uncomfortable, you really need to get the emergency room. It's just that simple. Save your life," said Peterson. "We definitely need to educate people. We really need to listen to our bodies."
This was the 16th year for the Heart Walk and the first year back in Jones Park since Hurricane Katrina.