People run and walk with a purpose in America's Greatest Heart Run & Walk

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - America's Greatest Heart Run & Walk, whether it's the 2012 version or the 36 others before it, is all about the stories behind the runners and walkers.

In Barneveld, where this event all began back in 1975, Heart Run & Walk Spokesperson Jim Stasaitis says the spirit back then, continues today, "seven Steuben Striders started right here to go down to the WIBX studios to deliver 200 some odd dollars. The next year it was an organized run, and it's grown to this."

42 runners took part in this year's 30K, running the 18.6 miles from Barneveld to Utica College, and many were running those miles with someone in particular in mind.

Pete Kozinski of Barneveld has taken part the past 17 years, "Phil Telano, he's a heart survivor, this one's for you this year Phil." Kozinski says his friend Phil Telano passed away this past year.

It's the same story no matter which of the four runs or two walks you are taking part in.

We caught up with Denise Cavanaugh of Whitesboro, who each year runs the five mile race which begins on Main Street ion Whitesboro, "I'm running for my dad today. He's had years of heart disease and he's been deceased a year now. He had quintuple bypass surgery, survived it well for years and years, got a pacemaker, finally it took him, but he survived 25 years with heart disease."

The secondary story of the 2012 America's Greatest heart Run & Walk was the weather, the very nice weather.

Sandy Arcuri of Deerfield, who also took part in the five mile run said it wasn't what she was expecting, "oh it's great. I couldn't ask for a better day. They said it was going to rain, but so glad it didn't. Five miles in the rain would have been awful."

Some are preparing to run their first Boilermaker in July, by running their first Heart Run here in March.

One of those runners is Anthony Walsh of Utica who ran the five mile run Saturday morning, "I've been nervous all morning thinking about if i'm going to be able to do it? Am I going to get the full five miles?"

Once you get to the finish line, no matter which race you took part in, you had the chance to head inside Utica College and sign the memory wall.

Among these 'Messages From The Heart' this year, includes the story Valentia St. Thomas writing a message on the wall to her dad Pete.

Pete St. Thomas has been a Rome Firefighter for 23 years, and Valentina says he is fighting for his life after having a heart attack, and now cancer in his early 50's, "he's gone through a lot. He only has a third of his heart left, and he keeps having ablations, your heart stops and the machine brings you back to life, and I didn't think he'd be around this year. The fact that I know he is going to be walking me down the aisle is the biggest gift. Walking like this is nothing compared to what God has given us, and I want to give it to someone else's family, that's why I'm here."

And that is what this day, and the more than one million dollars raised is all about, stories like these.

Valentina this is such an important event, "I'm so glad to see all these people here. All these people care about people like my dad, and it touches my heart."