Todd Louis got up early Saturday morning to walk three miles at Alachua County’s event for heart health at Santa Fe College.
Though it was his first time walking with his employer, Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish Realtors, he said the cause is personal. Seeing so many people paying attention was heartwarming, he said.
“I have a strong history of heart disease in my family. I lost my uncle who was the same age as I am now, so that really hit home,” Louis, 53, said. “It runs so strongly in my family so it’s important to talk about this.”
Louis was one of hundreds of Alachua County residents who gathered at SFC Sept. 24 for the Alachua County Heart Walk. The walk is held annually in the community and raises money for the American Heart Association, a nonprofit organization of more than 35 million volunteers and supporters dedicated to improving heart health and reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and strokes.
As of Sept. 24, 685 walkers, 83 teams and 44 companies have raised $136,223 and counting for the walk, according to the Alachua County Heart Walk website.
The Alachua County Heart Walk made its return to SFC for the first time since 2019 after three years held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers and participants of the walk were excited to come together for the annual event in-person for the first time in three years.
Brittany Daley, AHA’s 27-year-old regional development director, said she works with the Gainesville community to raise funds and awareness. She was happy to witness the community come together for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, she said.
“I’m excited to see everyone out,” Daley said. “You can tell by the turnout today that Gainesville really supports nonprofits.”
Alachua County residents participated in the walk to get the opportunity to raise awareness for the organization at a local level.
Meghan Bailey, a 32-year-old UF Health nurse specialist, walked with her coworkers and pitbull, Roland, who all adorned matching UF Health shirts.
She has participated in the walk for the past six years to raise awareness for heart health, she said, and was looking forward to joining the community for this event in person for the first time since the pandemic outbreak.
“It’s much better when everyone gets to come together for such an important event,” Bailey said.
The Alachua County Heart Walk is still receiving money in hopes to make its goal of $145,000.
Contact Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @grunewaldclaire.
Claire Grunewald is a third-year journalism major and the Santa Fe reporter for The Alligator. When she is not writing or reading, she's looking for new music or going to the beach.