The seventh annual Marion Heart Walk, held on Oct. 6 at Baseline Trailhead, was a huge success.
"It was a fantastic event," said Staci McDonough, regional director of the American Heart Association.
"We had roughly 3,500 walkers participate and we raised approximately $225,000, which was a $50,000 increase over last year," she said. "We were very pleasantly surprised by the increase and the fact that we met our lofty goal."
The funds go toward the American Heart Association's efforts to fight heart disease and stroke through research and education, said McDonough. She attributed this year's increased success to "just an outpouring of support from the community."
"We had more companies participate this time, and we had tremendous leadership," she said, noting that this year's walk chairman was Steve Hollosi, general manager of Ford/Lincoln of Ocala.
Hollosi said he, too, was extremely pleased with the results of the walk.
"Even though the economy is still sputtering, our community really rose to the occasion. I'm very proud to have been a part of it," he said.
"Of course, the primary goal of the annual event is to raise funds for research and education," he noted, "but a big part of the work is promoting physical activity and an all-around healthy lifestyle, which reduces the risk of heart disease."
McDonough said heart disease is not only the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, it is the No. 1 cause of death in Marion County.
"Heart disease accounts for one third of all the deaths in Marion County," she said.
There was no cost to participate in the 3-mile, non-competitive walk, but donations of all amounts were welcomed. Festivities included music, food and a kids' fun zone.
Munroe Regional Medical Center was once again the top fundraising company, contributing a total of more than $47,000 by way of a number of hospital department teams. Topping the list of team contributors, and appropriate for the cause, noted McDonough, was MRMC's "Heart Menders," which contributed more than $9,000.
MRMC teams also ranked second and third among the team contributors.
Also, individuals of all ages and representing all walks of life participated on their own or together with their families, co-workers, and friends, said McDonough.
The top individual fundraisers were Steve Purves, who raised $6,050; Steve Hollosi, $4,900; Tom Falangam, $4,100; Cory Pool, $3,100; and Paulette Crawford, who contributed $2,343.
"The amount of funds raised will make a tremendous difference in the fight against heart disease," McDonough said.
For more information about the American Heart Association or for tips on how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit www.heart.org.