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2011 Heart Run & Walk almost matches 2010 total

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - America's Greatest Heart Run & Walk 2011 was a huge success. Despite the poor economy, a grand total of $1,100,510 was raised for the American Heart Association. That is just $25,000 less than the 2010 total of $1,125,032.

More than 8,400 people participated in the many runs and walks this year, down about 300 from last year.

Event Director Jim Stasaitis was very pleased with this year's turnout and this year's weather. Conditions started with some light rain for the 30K run that began in Barneveld at 7:30 a.m. The rains died down and above freezing temperatures came in for a pleasant day to run and walk in early March.

Stasaitis says each year everyone remembers those runners who began this race in 1974 from Van's Tavern in Barneveld. He said, "37 years ago a bunch of Steuben Striders from here ran down to the WIBX studios and turned in 230 some off dollars and it's turned into this."

Barneveld resident Pete Kozinski runs the 30-K each year, and this year he is running for two people in particular. He said, "Phil Calleno, he just had a heart attack and he's recovering from heart surgery, good luck Phil. And a friend from Barneveld Kevin Els, who passed away last year from a stroke, Kevin Els this one's for you."

Jamie Green, a third grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Utica performed the National Anthem at each of the runs once again this year, and this year he says he too has someone in mind. She said "we have an uncle that has had some heart problems and this year he is doing the walk for the first time."

WKTV once again held its telethon to raise money and WIBX held its Radiothon. WIBX News Director Jeff Monasky says it may be the media that puts these on, but its local residents who pick up their phones. He added, "the community is really what makes it happen, the great donations, everybody steps up."

Organizers say more and more teams are popping up each year. This year Team Blackshear is wearing tee shirts that say "In Memory of Willie, Richard, James and Matthew", four brothers who all passed away from heart disease. Their niece, Sabrina Brown-Ingram of Utica says this event hopefully will help other families save their loved one lives before they ever have any heart related problems, "I think it brings to the spotlight, you know, the cause, and how important it is for everybody to eat right, to exercise, and be preventive with heart disease," she said.

Doctors who take part in the Heart Run & Walk say besides raising money, this event definitely raises awareness. Dr. Stephen Eadline, a pediatrician with the Slocum Dickson Medical Group in New Hartford says this event works in many ways.

Dr. Eadline said, "this community and the giving that it does is unbelievable for its size, and I think it is probably permeating even more than we think, because even parents with new babies will come in and ask questions about diet and exercise, so I think we're getting our message out there."