COLUMBIA — It was about promoting heart health awareness, volunteerism and raising money for the American Heart Association.
But more than anything, the 14th annual Columbia Start! Heart Walk was about support.
Roughly 700 people participated in the event held at Peace Park on Saturday morning, organizers said. People walked to raise money — and awareness — for relatives and friends afflicted by heart disease and strokes.
Jeanne Powell, 71, had two heart valves, which she said were made from tissue from pigs, replaced in 2004. She joined dozens of fellow survivors in one of the walks, including a woman with whom she struck up a quick friendship. Their mutual struggles became a bond.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again,” Powell said. “But you have something in common.”
According to walk participant Jamie McDonald, that commonality helps survivors realize they are not alone in their struggle.
“This unites them,” McDonald said.
It also unified some in the community. Approximately 350 walkers participated in the walk on the combined Boone Hospital Center-MU Health Care team.
“It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this,” said Kyle Sheafer, director of marketing for Boone Hospital Center.
Jo Ann Wait, director of public relations and marketing for MU Health Care, said the walk kicked off a philanthropic collaboration between the two health systems.
The health systems will co-sponsor Columbia’s edition of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a breast cancer fundraiser scheduled to be held Sept. 19.
The Columbia Start! Heart Walk has raised $86,000 so far, and donations will continue to be accepted in coming weeks. Contributions can be made on the walk's website at columbiaheartwalk.org.