Whitney Diaz

Click Get More to watch an audio slideshow of the SLO Heart Walk

More than 300 pedestrians treaded through the heart of Cal Poly’s agriculture and sports fields as part of the 17th annual San Luis Obispo Heart Walk Saturday morning.

For the first time the university was the location of the Heart Walk’s route, and many participants finished within one hour.

“Our attendance was actually up because we did this,” said Lisa Dosch, the business development director for the American Heart Association in San Luis Obispo County and north Santa Barbara County.

“Every year it’s just grown. The last three years, (the Heart Walk) has really taken a new stand in this community.”

The Heart Walk promotes physical activity and heart-healthy living while raising critical funds to help end heart disease and stroke, officials said. Local businesses, organizations, heart disease survivors and community members raised over $109,000 before Saturday, a number which is expected to rise in the coming days when all funds are tallied.

Nationally sponsored by Subway, Healthy Choice and AstraZeneca, the three-mile trek began with festivities and refreshments in Parking Lot H on Mt. Bishop Road at 8:30 a.m. and ended in the upper sports fields of Cal Poly’s sports complex around 10 a.m.

“We’ve had (the walk) at Laguna (Lake) the last three years, and I think the route was always the same,” Dosch said. “People have really enjoyed the (new) route. Being up here, they’ve got to walk past the swine unit and through the vineyards, and it was a part of Cal Poly that I don’t think a lot of people have seen.”

The annual event celebrates the American Heart Association’s groundbreaking national Start! Campaign, which calls on Americans and employers to create a culture of physical activity and health to live longer, heart-healthy lives.

The funds raised for the event go toward heart disease research in the community, CPR training, education and local hospitals, Dosch said.

“It’s important for us to have awareness and tell our family and friends about a condition that affects a lot of our families,” said biology senior Vilma Huerta. She is a member of the Cal Poly Latina interest sorority Sigma Omega Nu, which participated in and helped raise funds for Saturday’s event.

Each participant had the opportunity to join a “team” to help raise funds for the event. The French Hospital Medical Center raised the most funds, tallying more than $6,000.

Weekday morning radio show personality Andy Morris of Chad & Andy on Cat Country 96.1 provided the sound system for the event. He has participated in at least five other Heart Walks in the past.

“This one’s the best I’ve ever been associated with, and I’ve done them all the way up and down the Central Coast,” Morris said. “The people in this area are incredibly giving. You know that when you’re going to have an event here in San Luis (Obispo) County, you’re going to have a ton of people show up and they’re going to raise a lot of money.”

Survivors of heart disease participated and some even led the way for others to follow.

“The highlight of the day was watching the people in the red hats cross the finish line because they’re the survivors; they’re the ones that have beat heart disease or beat a heart attack or something like that,” Morris said. “Watching them cross the finish line just gives me goose bumps every time.”

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