Rain doesn’t dampen spirits at Parkersburg Heart Walk

Photo by Madeline Murphy Heart and stroke survivors lead the lap around the pond at City Park in Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — Despite the rain, many survivors wore red (heart survivor) and white caps (stroke survivor) while walking at City Park for the 25th anniversary of Parkersburg’s Heart Walk.

The American Heart Association changed its Heart Walk event, holding this year’s event on Thursday evening, instead of Saturday morning, to raise awareness for heart disease and stroke and money for statewide research.

“There are so many great people who have been involved with putting this year’s Heart Walk together,” said Walk Chair Steve Altmiller, president and CEO of WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center.

“I am honored to be chair this year. It is great to be out here surrounded by so many survivors and hearing their stories,” Altmiller said.

Statistics show that heart disease is the No. 1 killer and stroke ranks fifth nationally. In West Virginia, these diseases combined claim the lives of almost 9,000 each year. These conditions also cause disability and diminish the quality of life.

Photo by Madeline Murphy Tom Yencha, a Parkersburg resident and heart attack survivor, is this year’s honorary chairman. He took time to share his story, in hopes that hearing it could save someone’s life.

“People think changing their diet and adding exercise is overwhelming,” Altmiller said. “It doesn’t have to be. Park two more parking spaces out, go out and get your mail, don’t just drive up to your mail box, and pick even one healthier snack a day is all it really takes,” he said.

Tom Yencha, a Parkersburg resident and heart attack survivor, was this year’s honorary chair.

Last October, Yencha, 61, went to City Park to play pickleball. After the workout, he suffered a “widow maker” heart attack while driving home.

Yencha stressed three main points while speaking at the walk.

“Listen to your body, if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your family, and utilize the terrific resources we have right here in Parkersburg,” Yencha said.

Photo by Madeline Murphy Teagan DeMoss, 15, of Vienna, celebrated her “Sweet Sixteen” Heart Walk by bringing a cake to share with those in attendance.

“I can’t even imagine the angst and horror that my wife and family felt that day. The phone call they got at least as I know it, stated that, your husband was in a car wreck and he has no pulse,” he said.

Yencha said he has continued to exercise and eat right on a regular basis.

Jodi Mote, head football coach and athletic director at St. Marys High School, is a stroke survivor.

“Words can’t describe what I went through,” he said. “I worked out. I did everything I knew to do.”

A possible factor in his stroke, Mote said, was a patent foramen ovale, or PFO, an opening in the heart that normally closes at birth, but remains open for some people.

Photo by Madeline Murphy Some people attended as a way to show support for those they have lost to heart disease and stroke. They hung up cards in memory of those loved ones.

“I remember parts of the day, but it was like I was in a daze as it was happening,” Mote said.

“Being only 40, healthy and active I thought maybe I had received a concussion earlier, not that I was having a stroke,” Mote said.

Mote has been coming to the walk since 2014, and has been walking each year with his friend Bob Steele, who had a stroke not long after Mote.

“When you have the drive, it is amazing what people can overcome,” said Carol Butler, a Parkersburg resident walking in support of her best friend.

It was Teagan DeMoss’s “Sweet Sixteen,” the 16th year she has been in attendance at the walk.

Photo by Madeline Murphy Crowds of people gather despite the rain on Thursday evening to show their support and share their own stories of survival at this year’s Heart Walk in City Park.

DeMoss, 15, was diagnosed with heart failure at 1-month-old. She had open-heart surgery at 6 months old.

“My first walk was at 4 months old,” DeMoss said.

In years past, Team Teagan has been among the top walkers; this year was no exception, with DeMoss’s team coming in second place, raising $1,061 for research.

“Raising money for donations gives me a way to give back to the community and cardiologists who have given so much to me,” DeMoss said.

The top three businesses to fundraise for the event were:

* Parkersburg Cardiology Associates — $12,600

* Camden Clark Medical Center — $12,410

* WesBanco Parkersburg Division — $7,023

The top three walkers were:

* Monica Davis — $2,315

* Teagan DeMoss — $1,061

* Joe Campbell — $698

This year’s sponsors were WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center, WesBanco, Parkersburg Cardiology Associates, Highmark, Solvay, Unicare, Grae-Com and Bowles Rice.

Activities at this year’s event included a “Forever Young” exercise class offered by the Wellness Center; CPR certification training offered by CCMC; kids activities such as coloring, outdoor games, face painting and sidewalk chalk; and performances by the Mountain Rhythm Cloggers and The Pipers and Drums of Saint Andrews.


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