The sun shined and American flags waved as more than 150 participants gathered at United Hook & Ladder Fire Company #33 in New Oxford on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 11 for the annual Adams/Mason Dixon Heart Walk. The event raised over $30,000 for the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization focused on heart and brain health for all, while promoting physical and mental health through healthy habits.
The event saw fewer participants than in previous years, but those that did participate were excited to have the opportunity to gather in-person again after the Heart Walk was held virtually in 2020. The dedicated group of participants included a strong contingent of athletic teams from Gettysburg College and several heart disease survivors and their families, proudly wearing their Heart Walk baseball caps adorned with commemorative pins from Heart Walks past.
Among them was long-time supporter Gene Shaffer of Biglerville, who has volunteered for the Heart Walk for 24 years. Gene is consistently among the event’s “top walkers” who individually raise the most money. He is currently in first place with over $2,570 raised this year.
“I’ve been a survivor for 25 years. I had four bypasses and several stents, but I’m still here. I’m still moving,” said Gene.
The funds raised at events like the Heart Walk support the American Heart Association’s mission, including advocating for public policy that improves community health, advancing the science of CPR, improving outcomes for heart and stroke patients, and investing in cardiovascular research that has led to life-saving advancements in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
“If it wasn’t for those advances, I wouldn’t have had those 25 years.”
Just behind Gene is another consistent top walker, 20-year Heart Walk participant Joe Lynch. In addition to personally raising $2,264 so far this year, Joe also leads the teams from Gettysburg College who raised a combined $5,032. The women’s lacrosse team raised over $2,300 of that total.
The star of this year’s Heart Walk was 21-month-old heart hero Jace Taughinbaugh of Gettysburg, a congenital heart defect survivor. Jace was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, called double outlet of the right ventricle with a subaortic ventricular septal defect, before he was born in November 2019. At birth, he was found to have several other defects including fused ribs, abnormal shaped vertebra in the spine and a duplicated collecting system in his left kidney that resulted in a rare diagnoses of Goldenhar Syndrome. He underwent two open heart surgeries and received a permanent pacemaker in 2020.
“We now call Jace our ‘little iron man’ since he has a special device helping his heartbeat,” said his mother, Liz Taughinbaugh, as she addressed the walkers gathered to kick-off the event. “Jace is our heart warrior superhero and has shown us the biggest strength and perseverance in his short time on earth and reminds us every day how much of a gift life really is.”
According to his mother, Jace also loves the American flag, which anyone could see as reached out to touch it while participants stood at attention during the National Anthem. With a little help from his mom, Jace cut the ribbon to officially kick-off the Heart Walk. Waving miniature American flags, the walkers took off on a nearly 1-mile loop through the streets of New Oxford.
Supporters who were unable to attend the Heart Walk in person were encouraged to walk on their own path. The American Heart Association encourages anyone who wishes to support the Heart Walk, but was unable to attend the event in person, to walk where they are and share their walk on social media using #AdamsMasonDixonHeartWalk.
The Adams/Mason Dixon Heart Walk was sponsored by WellSpan Health, UPMC Hanover, ACNB Bank, Ira E. Lady American Legion Post #262 and Patriot Federal Credit Union. Dr. Richard Howard Jr., cardiologist at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital served as chair of the event.
Donations to help the American Heart Association reach its $42,000 goal for the Adams/Mason Dixon Heart Walk will be accepted through Oct. 11, 2021. Visit heart.org/adamswalk to learn more and make a donation.
Communications Director for the American Heart Association in Central Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, State College, Altoona and Johnstown.