Adapting to change has been a way of life for Alen Mukic, general manager of Carbone Yorkville. That ability to adapt is coming in handy as he leads America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk, which will likely be a digital or hybrid digital/in person experience, and is scheduled for May 15, 2021, instead of the usual March weekend.
Everything around us is changing,” Mukic, who has been a volunteer with the American Heart Association for the past eight years, said. “Everything is more online. And even when we return to normal, many people will still work at home. But the need hasn’t gone away. Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer, and we need to help the ones in need. We are putting together our plan of attack, and moving forward.”
Mukic has seen a lot of change in his life. His family left Bosnia in 1993, after surviving two years of wartime, which Mukic described as very difficult. His family went to Rottweil, Germany, to live with an aunt who had immigrated there at the start of the Cold War.
“I lived there for seven years, graduated from high school there, and speak German fluently,” Mukic said. When he was 17, his family came to the U.S. That was 20 years ago, and today, he’s one of about 5,000 Bosnians who live in the Utica area.
Mukic said his English was very rudimentary when he first arrived in the U.S. – phrases like “good morning” and “how are you” was the extent of it. Taking English classes and living in the community made English the third language he speaks fluently today. He attended Mohawk Valley Community College and NADA University, the comprehensive online education and training resource for auto dealers and their staff. He has been with Carbone Auto Group for 18 years, and before becoming GM in Yorkville, was Vice President of Operations for Lithia Motors/Carbone Auto Group.
Mukic said the auto industry, like so many businesses, is facing challenges. But, as he has before, he’s figuring out ways to change.
“We’re servicing cars every day,” he said, “and we are still in business. All you can do is adapt.”
Mukic stresses the importance of continuing to donate to fight heart disease and stroke.
“If we don’t invest and we don’t support, it’s going to be even tougher for the people who are suffering,” he said. “If people don’t give, how can we make a difference? You can still make some room and still donate.”
Mukic has seen firsthand the effects of heart disease. One grandfather died at the age of 63 of a heart attack, and his grandmother has a heart condition. To prevent that, Mukic takes to his heart the mission of the American Heart Association.
“Exercise is first,” the 36-year-old said. “I was away from the gym for a while, but I’ve started back up. I’m up at 5:30 and head to the gym four to five times each week. Second is nutrition. I bend sometimes, but I’m careful about what I put in my body. There are so many ways to challenge yourself to improve your health. You can run, you can walk, you can track your exercise. It’s just important that you take care of yourself.”
Mukic’s goal for America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk in 2021?“I want to beat last year’s numbers, both in attendance and in the amount of money we raise,” he said.
Mukic is quick to list the reasons why people should be part of America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk.
“We need to help those in need, and fight the No. 1 killer, heart disease,” he said. “We need to educate people about heart disease, which is going to become even more important moving forward. Obesity is on the rise, especially during COVID, since gyms have been closed, and we’re limited in where we can go. It’s important to change that.”
Mukic is a member of the American Heart Association’s Cor Vitae Society, a group of people who make a personal donation of $5,000 or more to the Heart Association. He and his partner, Adela Okanovic, have two sons, 6 years old, and 18 months old.
“I’d like to make a difference,” Mukic said. “All the people who work and volunteer with the American Heart Association are great. I know we’ll all come together for another great event, even as we adapt to different ways.”
“We’ve been fortunate to work with Carbone Auto Group for so long, and to have Alen’s support over the years,” said Steve Gassner, administrative officer at Mohawk Valley Water Authority, chair of the Utica Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, and longtime volunteer with America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk. “We’re honored that he stepped up to lead this event, especially in a year like no other. I know his work will further the mission of the American Heart Association for years to come.”
For information or to register for America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk, visit https://www2.heart.org/site/TR/?fr_id=5688&pg=entry.