Walking for the heart
Published 10:06 pm Thursday, February 18, 2016
The Pike County High School Jazz Band began to play as others joined the walk in celebration of the victories won over heart disease.
Jim O’Neal sat, watched and remembered.
O’Neal and Gene Omasta have participated in more Pike County Heart Walk fundraisers than most of the others at the 2016 fundraiser for the American Heart Association.
O’Neal was a leader in the fundraising efforts for the AHA back in the 1960s and for good reason.
“My family has the heart disease gene,” O’Neal said. “My father, my mother, my younger brother and my sister all died from heart disease. My father died in 1950 at age 57 after heart surgery. Back then, doctors didn’t really know what to do. My mother had a heart attack and died.”
O’Neal and an older brother both had blockages that were treated with angioplasty.
“I know what heart disease can do,” said O’Neal who will celebrate his 91st birthday in a couple of weeks. “Education and research are making a difference. Lives are being saved and people are suffering less with heart disease than they used to. The money raised here tonight will help save lives. That’s why I’m here.”
And, that’s why O’Neal’s friend Gene Omasta was there. Omasta has been a member of the Heart Walk board for about 15 years. He has seen the advances that have been made in the treatment of heart disease and is encouraged by the preventive measures that people are taking to stay heart healthy.
“The Heart Walk is a wonderful program,” he said. “It’s the good we can do for people.”
Jimmy Phillips was standing nearby and echoed O’Neal’s support of the Heart Walk.
“I’ve had three strokes and I’m alive because of the research into heart disease and stroke and the power up above,” he said. “It’s an honor to help raise money for the American Heart Association.”
Some, perhaps many, who participated in the 2016 Pike County Heart Walk had a story to tell about how their lives had been affected by heart disease.
Troy University football player Ke’Marvin Pitts was with his teammates in support of the community. He was also there in memory of his dad who had heart disease.
“Coach (Neal) Brown really supports events like this and he encourages us to support them, too,” Pitts said. “We are proud to be a part of this event that helps save lives.”
Annette Toney, co-chair of the 2016 Pike County Heart Walk, said she was pleased with the support of the fundraiser and encourage to see people of all ages participating.
“People were here early and we severed a lot of heart-healthy meals,” she said. “We had a lot of teams and individuals who walked. We won’t know how much was raised until all of the money is in but we want to thank everyone who participated. It takes all us working together to make the Heart Walk a success. Looking around tonight, the 2016 Pike County Heart Walk is a success.”