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May 2, 2014
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate is tops in 2014 Heart Walk

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— When it comes the Syracuse American Heart Association’s signature fundraiser, the Heart Walk, (held March 22 at SRC Event Center at Onondaga Community College) Upstate Medical University is tops.

Upstate employees raised $37,966 to lead 175 corporate and community teams in fundraising. Upstate also had the greatest number of participants in the walk at 571.

“Not only was Team Upstate our top fundraising team, but it was also our biggest team,” said Michael DiGiovanni, director of the Syracuse Heart Walk and Fit-Friendly Worksites. “In addition to the great fundraising efforts, Upstate Medical University also helped educate walkers about the dangers of stroke through its Stroke Awareness sponsorship. We are incredibly proud of the commitment Team Upstate has shown in the fight against heart disease and stroke.”

Since 1997 when Team Upstate first participated in the Heart Walk, it has raised $432,309 and attracted more than 8,000 participants.

“Team Upstate is delighted to be able to support the American Heart Association each year,” said Zanette Howe, who assists in the planning for Team Upstate’s participation in the event. “It’s clear from this year’s final tally, that Upstate employees and their families and friends, enjoy the opportunity to walk in support of the Heart Association.”

Richard Veenstra, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology, is one of the Heart Walk’s chief participants. Not only does he walk, but he helps recruit other Upstate faculty and staff who, like him, are doing heart research.

“Second to NIH [National Institutes of Health] in funding cardiovascular research, the American Heart Association plays a key role in providing young researchers with support for their cardiovascular research,” Veenstra said, “so it’s rewarding to give back to an organization that supports young researchers.” The American Heart Association is currently funding three cardiovascular research studies at Upstate.

“Of course, the association’s promotion of living a healthy lifestyle, through eating right and exercise, like participating in the Heart Walk, is a great message for all of us to remember,” said Veenstra, who is a former board member of the local chapter of the American Heart Association.

Recruiting for the Team Upstate Heart Walk team traditionally begins on National Wear Red Day that raises awareness of heart health through the wearing of the color red. All across Upstate, the color red is everywhere, with people wearing everything from scarlet scrubs to crimson feathered boas.

A special Heart Walk kick-off breakfast photo with team captains even took the shape of a heart.

Sixty-three individuals from Upstate served as team captains and spent the next several weeks recruiting teams for the Heart Walk. Students were well represented this year, thanks to the efforts of Michael Enechukwu, Lexi Deming and Nicole Slavinski. Another impressive showing, with more then 30 participants, came from Environmental Services, a group coordinated by Cheryl Brown. A first this year was participation in the walk by a small group of OASIS members, recruited by Sandy Roberts.

“The Heart Walk is really a team effort,” said Howe. “All across campus, groups of students and employees and their friends, make a commitment to give back to the community through the American Heart Association, and it’s a commitment we find not only to the Heart Walk, but to the dozens of other events and fundraisers Upstate supports.”

Throughout the build up to the Heart Walk and beyond, Upstate continues the fight against heart disease and stroke, through dozens of community presentations, health screenings, its New York State Fair exhibit and the daylong Strong Women Strong Hearts event that attracts more than 500 people annually.

Caption: The 2014 Heart Walk team captains posed for this special photograph that took the shape of a heart.

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