Christopher Costello has been part of the Tri-County Heart Walk for 10 years. He walks for a combination of personal and professional reasons, and this year, has stepped up to chair the May 1 event.
“My wife was nine when her father died of a heart attack,” Costello said. “He was 36 years old. My mother also died of heart problems. Every year, when we do the Heart Walk, Maureen reminds me that this is why we do this.”
As the Director of Occupational Health and Wellness at Garnet Health, Costello, BSN, MSN, also has the health of his fellow workers at heart.
“I oversee the health and wellness of the staff that work at Garnet Health,” Costello said. “I make sure they meet the annual health requirements to work here. We have a wellness program to keep staff healthy. We offer step, weight, and yoga challenges, as well as gym memberships. We want to get people motivated to take care of themselves.”
Costello has participated in the Heart Walk for the past 10 years, and says some of his staff have benefitted from that.
“I was a team captain when I was nurse manager, and the work of the American Heart Association has helped staff members who have had heart disease or even heart surgeries,” he said.
Being part of the Heart Walk also benefits the hospital’s mission of serving and improving the community.
“We have a program called ‘Beyond 707,’ our address, which offers Thanksgiving dinners for the community, and adopts families at Christmas,” Costello said. “It’s part of our culture to give back. This is my community hospital. My family lives locally, and when they need services, this is where they come. I have a vested interest in making the hospital the best it can be.”
Garnet Health has faced the challenges of COVID in the past year.
“We are a vaccination center, and we are committed to making the community a better place so we can get back together,” Costello said. “We need to be careful. Nationally, we’ve seen people not getting treatment for heart disease and stroke, and Garnet Health has been aggressive in letting people know that we are open to help with any need. We urge everyone to not wait on their medical condition. We can provide help safely.”
Costello is also concerned about the link between COVID and heart disease, and how it underscores the need to further support the American Heart Association.
“We don’t yet understand the full effects of COVID,” Costello said. “We’re seeing people with respiratory and heart problems that linger on for months. There have to be more studies; we need more post-care related to COIVD; and we need to plan for a future with COVID.”
The American Heart Association has invested in COVID research and has created a COVID registry to study the long-term effects of the disease. Costello sees his leadership of the Tri-County Heart Walk as a way to support those efforts.
“The Tri-County Heart Walk has been a strong support for the for cardiac and stroke programs for many years,” he said. “You only hear about the good things from the AHA. We can show over and over again how the Heart Association helps the community and what programs they’ve supported. Most of all, you can see the people who are alive because of the work of the American Heart Association.”
The digital event can be a plus for the community, in Costello’s view.
“It hasn’t always been easy for people to get to one location for the Heart Walk,” Costello said. “We were successful with last year’s digital event, which we pulled together quickly in the midst of the blooming pandemic. This year, people can really showcase the beauty of where they live. This is a great area, and we want people to share that with us. Show us your area, show us your life, show us you.”
His goal for the 2021 Tri-County Heart Walk is to build the walk up so it continues to support the American Heart association – and the community.
“I’m going to pull in as many of my colleagues and contacts as I can to showcase the Heart Walk,” he said. “I want this to be a really good event.”
Costello has worked at Garnet Health for 29 years, the last five in his current position. He originally wanted to be an oceanographer, but living in a landlocked area shifted his career direction. He began working as a phlebotomist, then became a lab tech. That’s when he watched nurses work, and realized that was what he wanted to do. He holds a B.S. from Mt. St. Mary’s in Newburgh, and a master’s degree from Chamberlin University. He was born in the Bronx and raised in Middletown. He and his wife Maureen have been married for 27 years, and have three adult children, 25, 23 and 21.
“Our children take off from work so they can join us at the Heart Walk,” Costello said. “Maureen and I put a picture of each of our parents out there. That’s why we do this.”
“I have been part of the Tri-County event for 3 years now, and it’s always exciting to see it grow and make an impact in our community,” said Eleni Smalley, Senior Director, Development for the American Heart Association. “Having Chris as a chair is providing leadership to an event that is over 25 years old, and we are looking forward to a successful year.”
Costello is joined by an Executive Leadership team, whose members include:
Carla Alfieri, Orange Bank and Trust
Alicia Campbell-Mullings, Hannaford Supermarkets
Matteo Doddo, Newburgh School District
Thomas Fallon, Medline
Caitlin Huebner, Middletown Medical
Williams Jeffries, Mobile Life Support Services, Inc.
Beverly Keefer, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital
Matthew McGuire, Crothall Healthcare
Anthony Patrello, M.D., Cardiovascular Institute
Ray Sharo, New Windsor Recreation Department
Joseph Surace, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital