Maria M. Silva, Special Assignment Reporter
America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk has begun at Utica College.
With the expo taking place inside the dome today, races and walks are set to begin tomorrow morning. First organized 45 years ago, the Heart Run and Walk has been held at UC for the last 22 years.
The goal of the event is to raise money for the American Heart Association, which will use funds to research heart-related illnesses and support people suffering from heart disease and stroke — the two leading causes of death in the world.
The American Heart Association raised almost $1 million at last year’s Heart Run and Walk. UC’s own team of walkers and runners contributed between $10,000-$12,000 of that amount through fundraising events on campus, which include raffles, Pie a Coach and giveaways.
Debra McQueary, senior coordinator from the Events and Conference Programs Office, has been the liaison between UC and the American Heart Association during the 22 years the event has been held on campus.
In addition to her job responsibilities, McQueary will also be walking on Saturday in honor of various family members.
“Every family has someone that may have been touched by heart disease, and being a part of something that helps so many people brings me a warm feeling of satisfaction and completion,” she said.
President Laura Casamento was designated this year’s honorary Team UC captain for the Heart Run & Walk.
“I think it is really important for people to be aware of the hereditary aspects of the disease,” Casamento said. “I’m happy to help spread the awareness because heart disease has affected so many people in the Mohawk Valley, the country and the world. The more we can do, the better.”
Casamento said that she is proud of UC’s role as the host of the Heart Run & Walk.
“When you’re at the front of that line [during the Heart Walk], and there are people as far back as the eye can see, you’ve got to be pretty proud of Utica, New York,” Casamento said.
Marissa Finch, assistant director for student living, has served as captain for Team UC for four consecutive years. Finch became involved with organizing the Heart Run and Walk because she wanted to help make a difference.
“Heart disease is something that is too prevalent in today’s society,” she said. “So I wanted to help to raise awareness and funds to hopefully bring about more resources and cures to help heart disease.”
By helping to make the Heart Run and Walk possible, Finch is able to interact with people who have been impacted by heart disease, which is what gives her “the motivation to help raise awareness and funds.”
Senior Samantha Miller is a committee member and a fellow captain of Team UC. Miller was born with a congenital heart defect and has participated in the Heart Run and Walk “for more years than I can count.”
“I got involved because of my heart defect but also to raise awareness that the Heart Run and Walk benefits all who are impacted by anything cardiac related, not just those who suffer from heart disease or stroke,” Miller said.
Miller said the event is also “a great way for our UC community to come together as a whole and raise awareness for a great cause.”
“On the day of the Heart Run and Walk, it’s great to see all those who are a part of the UC community come together and participate by volunteering their time,” she said.
When the event is over, Miller said it is “very rewarding to take a step back and truly appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making this event as great and successful as it truly is.”