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 Participants dance during the 2019 Metro Detroit Heart Walk in downtown Detroit. This year’s event will take place virtually due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants dance during the 2019 Metro Detroit Heart Walk in downtown Detroit. This year’s event will take place virtually due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photos provided by Beth Collins


American Heart Association to host virtual Heart Walk

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published June 3, 2020

 For the first time, the American Heart Association will host its annual Metro Detroit Heart Walk virtually to raise awareness of heart disease and cardiovascular research. The 2019 event, pictured, took place on and around the campus of Wayne State University.

For the first time, the American Heart Association will host its annual Metro Detroit Heart Walk virtually to raise awareness of heart disease and cardiovascular research. The 2019 event, pictured, took place on and around the campus of Wayne State University.

DETROIT — The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t stopping the American Heart Association’s Metro Detroit Heart Walk from promoting healthy living and getting helpful information to the public.

While the organization usually hosts a 5K Heart Walk at this time of year, that is not possible under the current health guidelines. However, the American Heart Association is instead offering a virtual Heart Walk that will take place on Saturday, June 13.

“A virtual event is unique, and it’s the first time the American Heart Association has done something like this,” said Raquel Sulaiman, the director of the Washtenaw County Heart Walk. “We want people to safely walk or run where they are and show their support even if they can't meet up in one location.”

The annual Heart Walks are chances for communities across the country to promote health, raise funds and raise awareness for heart and cardiovascular health.

“In normal times, we would usually be hosting a walk at Wayne State University,” explained Southeast Michigan Heart Walk Vice President Beth Collins. “For four years, we’ve all gathered down on their campus and have a festival ground full of activities for all ages, including screenings, education information, a kid zone and opportunities to learn things such as CPR.”

The walks would consist of an opening ceremony, speeches from leaders and medical professionals, a tribute to survivors, and the 5K walk/run in and around the Wayne State University campus. Several volunteer entertainers are even stationed along the route to provide music and encouragement to participants.

“This year, we are trying to keep what people have come to expect from the walk, and keep them there, but in a virtual way,” said Collins. “In the week leading up to the walk, we have a spirit week to get people excited. We try to engage people from their homes over social media. We have a Facebook frame people can change their profile picture to. The day of the walk we will have posts and videos going up to talk about the walk and what we are promoting.”

The ceremony will kick off at 9:30 a.m. and can be viewed by going to www.facebook.com/DetroitAHA. Those interested also can check out www.miheartwalk.org for other resources. Being virtual, the virtual participants can start with the kickoff or follow along later in the day. 

“We encourage people to join us online for the kickoff,” remarked Collins. “The bulk of things will go up until 11:30 a.m., but we will have things going on all day.” 

There will be opportunities to donate to the American Heart Association. The event organizers see the Heart Walk, whether virtual or in person, as a day to rally people and get them involved.

“For events like the Heart Walk, we do collect money, but we always are fundraising,” said Sulaiman. "We try to increase those efforts in the lead-up to the Heart Walk, but it’s been going on throughout the year. We are hoping to see it ramp up with the walk.”

The funds raised will benefit a variety of heart and cardiovascular related programs.

“For the Heart Walk, the funds raised go to the American Heart Association,” Sulaiman said. “It benefits research, provides for local grants such as a $3.5 million grant to a doctor, Dr. Brahmajee Nallamothu, at the University of Michigan, and his team to help improve health outcomes or CPR training in local communities, or healthy food access.”

Those who wish to take part can plan their own 5K route or simply take part in a healthy activity on the day of the virtual walk.

“We have a virtual 5K medal,” she said. “People can run on their own individual routes at their home or a park or something, and they can get a medal to display on their profile picture. They also will get an actual medal when we can send them out in the next few weeks.”

She added that the virtual walk actually allowed them to add a component that they can’t host with an in-person walk.

“What we normally don’t do is a top dog contest,” Collins said. “We usually can’t do this because dogs can’t participate in the usual walks, but this year we can let people submit their pet for the event.”

Collins stressed how important programs like the Heart Walk are, even in the midst of a crisis such as COVID-19.

“All of the people who support the Heart Walk and the American Heart Association, whether they are a survivor, or lost a loved one, or just want to promote health, can come together to celebrate what we’ve done,” she said. “A lot of people fundraise year-round for research into heart disease, and this is always a way people can contribute and do their part. We don’t want to lose that, and we want to keep that education and awareness in place.”

Both women said that, despite the difficulties, they are pleased they are still able to take action for a cause they care about.

“Obviously, COVID-19 has presented challenges in the last few months,” remarked Sulaiman. “The original date (we usually host it) was back in May, but we wanted to give people the event to keep them socially connected, keep healthy habits going, and keep our mission moving forward.”