(WYTV) – This Saturday, over 500 people are expected to attend the 2019 Mercer/Lawrence Heart Walk at Pearson Park in Neshannock Township.
33 WYTV Anchor Lindsey Watson is teaming up with the American Heart Association (AHA) this year to emcee the event, which aims to fight back against heart disease and stroke while inspiring lasting changes one step at a time.
According to the AHA, heart disease and stroke continue to be the #1 and #5 killers in America. Locally, cardiovascular disease claims almost 2,200 lives each year.
The AHA also spotlights those who have fought back, including 4-year-old Zane Barwell.
Super fast, super strong, super sweet and weeks away from celebrating his first “heart-iversary.” Though you would never know it by looking at him today, Zane’s journey with heart disease started at birth when he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect after a doctor heard a murmur.
“Then at about 4 months old, we had an echo done and that’s when they found a hole,” said Zane’s mom, Kristi Barwell.
Doctors at Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital determined he would need open heart surgery to close the hole.
As a mother, Kristi said it was absolutely devastating to look at her beautiful boy and know he had so much going on inside of him.
“Processing that, your whole mind just kind of shuts down. I couldn’t think about anything or feeling anything. It just… it was really, really scary,” she said.
Last October, doctors decided it was time. Zane underwent a four hour long open heart surgery.
“We were there a total of four days and they sent us home, and the kid’s been a maniac ever since,” Kristi said.
And she says that in the most loving way possible, because like most kids who suffer from heart disease, no one ever really knew Zane was sick. But after his surgery, his energy exploded!
He’s his mom’s hero and little miracle.
“I don’t wish that on anyone. No one should ever have to go through that and it’s sad that there are so many people that do,” Kristi said.
Following Zane’s surgery, Kristi found a light in the American Heart Association.
“It’s been like a godsend,” she said.
A group of loving, compassionate people who walked the journey hand and hand with her and Zane, before and after his surgery.
During this year’s Mercer/Lawrence Heart Walk, “Super Zane” will lead the way as this year’s Heart Child.
“He can’t wait. He wanted to go and run through a ribbon,” Kristi said.
“It’s really just a celebration of what we’ve done in the past year as a community,” said AHA Executive Director Tracey Behnke.
Changing lives one step at a time. Celebrating survivors and our neighbors who have committed themselves to living longer, healthier lives while honoring those loved ones who have been touched by heart disease and stroke.
While the walk this Saturday is the big, staple event, you will also be able to learn life-saving skills like hands-only CPR and have the opportunity to get your blood pressure checked.
Admission into the event is free. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m. The entire event runs until noon.
Attendees are also welcome to bring their pets to the walk, where treat bags and bandanas will be given out.