Beverly Keefer, RN, MSN, BSN, CNML, chaired the 2020 Tri-County Heart Walk, which went from being a scheduled in-person event to a virtual event when COVID struck.
She is returning to co-chair the 2022 Tri-County Heart Walk on Saturday, May 21, at Lake Welch Beach in Harriman State Park, 800 Kanawauke Road, Stony Point, to accomplish what she couldn’t with a virtual walk last year. The speaking program for this year’s Walk begins at 9 a.m., followed immediately by the Walk.
Margaret Deyo Allers, RN, BSN, MSN, ANP, is co-chairing with Keefer. Allers is the chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital.
“I have worked in cardiology for the last 30 years of my career,” Keefer said. “I’ve been in the ICU, the ER, and now, the cath lab. My family has all been affected by heart disease, and the American Heart Association is very dear to me. This is probably my last year working as a nurse, and to end my career being a co-chair of the Heart Walk with Margaret is an honor.”
Keefer, who has been a nurse for 47 years, is the director of cardiovascular services/cath lab/interventional radiology at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall, where she has worked for 12 years. In addition to being a past chair of the Tri-County Heart Walk, she has served on the executive leadership teams of AHA events.
Allers has also been involved with the American Heart Association throughout her 37-year career in healthcare, serving on the board of directors, and participating in the Heart Association events.
Allers opened MSLC’s first cardiac cath lab in 2005, which has had a tremendous positive impact on access to cardiovascular medicine for the Hudson Valley community.
Like Keefer, Allers had a personal connection to heart disease and in her case, it led to her career in healthcare.
“My father had severe cardiac disease,” she said. “He suffered for many years with of heart failure, as well as survived a triple bypass open heart surgery and a cardiac arrest which resulted in the insertion of an AICD (automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) and insertion of a pacemaker. My father’s journey through his progressive heart disease helped me to understand the importance of good cardiac health. Many of the risk factors associated with heart disease can be managed simply by controlling these factors such as monitoring BP, not smoking, exercising regularly, monitoring cholesterol, eating right, and knowing your genetics which can predispose you to heart disease. I know today that my father’s journey with heart disease was preventable and unfortunately a direct result of his lack of knowledge regarding his many risk factors. So since the mid 80’s, when my father was first diagnosed with heart disease, I have made it a priority to support the American Heart Association in the fight against heart disease by providing awareness about the preventable risk factors that can negatively affect heart health.”
Keefer lives in Montague, New Jersey, her home state. Before coming to Montefiore, she worked at Orange Regional Medical Center.
Allers was born in Brooklyn and moved to Chester as a teen She began her academic career with a music scholarship attending the University of New Hampshire, but after an illness, changed her major to nursing. She lives in Burlingham, Sullivan Co., with her husband and two adult daughters, one of whom is also a nurse.
Both are enthusiastic about why people should attend the Heart Walk.
“The Heart Walk is multi-faceted,” Keefer said. “We celebrate those that have passed away, and those that are still here. The stories we hear are all very touching. It’s exciting to think about the new technologies that have come about because of work the American Heart Association has done. Having everyone there is motivational and gets people excited. The money we raise impacts people’s lives.”
“It’s an incredible event,” Allers said. “The Heart Walk is a culmination of everything that the American Heart Association does in support of cardiac health. The Heart Walk is a place to celebrate everything we’ve done together to fight heart disease. It’s an opportunity to reflect on all the people who ‘ve been affected by heart disease, and come out on the other side.”
Both also see it as a chance for people to invest in their own health.
“For many years, heart disease was identified way too late in the disease process,” Allers said, generally after the person became symptomatic, presenting with chest pain, suffering from a heart attack or heart failure which indicated late stages of heart disease. However today we understand the importance of knowing our numbers ie: BP, Cholesterol, BMI, and knowing our genetics in order to prevent a cardiac event from occurring. The old saying that you can’t fix what you don’t know, applies here therefore proactive management of your cardiac health and increasing your knowledge of cardiac disease, such as participating in the Heart Walk is a chance to learn more, and to do something now to prevent cardiac issues later.”
“Stress is a big factor in today’s world,” Keefer said “People don’t realize how much stress can affect our heart muscle. We are seeing people with arteries having heart attacks. Diet and exercise are ways to reduce stress and take care of ourselves. Being part of the Heart Walk is a great way to reduce that stress and improve heart health.”
“The past few years have been stressful, and we have seen those effects in our communities,” said Eleni Smalley, senior development director for the American Heart Association in the Hudson Valley. “By hosting the walk in person again this year, we are encouraging people to come out, get some fresh air, see friends and co-workers, and do something healthy for their heart. It’s going to be a great day!”