ASHTABULA — Roger Wiltrout of West Mecca walked through a row of balloons on Saturday morning celebrating his success as a heart disease survivor during the Ashtabula County Heart Walk at Kent State University Ashtabula.

Wiltrout said he had open heart surgery in 2000 and has had stents placed several times in the years since.

He said he enjoyed supporting the cause to fight heart disease.

“It is a chance to get out and get some exercise and enjoy my family,” he said.

Wiltrout said he did some of his cardiac rehabilitation in Conneaut.

Valerie Hillow Gates, executive director of the Northeast Ohio American Heart Association, said the Saturday event is one of six held annually in the region and it is important to the organization’s efforts to fight heart disease.

“These are critically important. This is the best way to interact with our communities,” she said.

Gates said the heart walk provides a variety of positive elements including money, awareness, education and prevention. 

“We work with all the hospital and care providers,” she said of the cooperative nature of fighting one of the leading killers of Americans.

The local heart walk coordinator for 2019 is Robert Schimmelpfennig who greeted participants to the Kent State University Ashtabula  gymnasium. He thanked the 14 corporate sponsors and all the walkers.

Schimmelpfennig said the the goal for the 2019 campaign, which ends in November, is $100,000 and $90,000 has already been raised.

The walk began in the school’s parking lot and went west on West 9th Street across campus and back to the gymnasium.

Rhonda DiPofi, of Conneaut, said she works in Ashtabula and her company put together a team to support this campaign.

Many of the participants wore team T-shirts for a victim of heart disease. Katie’s team was formed in honor of Katie Nelson. Lauren Hull, of Ashtabula, said she walked to bring awareness to heart disease and as a memorial to her niece that died waiting for a heart transplant last year.

A variety of heart disease information was available to visitors at the event and a Kids Zone provided fun and games for children.

Hillow Gates said the AHA also coordinates a lot of cardiac pulmonary resuscitation classes.

After getting the crowd ready for the event Schimmelpfennig sent people outside to walk. “Now the moment we have all been waiting for.

“Who is ready to walk?”

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