Nearly 500 people across York and Adams counties in southcentral Pennsylvania gathered on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022 to get some healthy physical activity and support the mission of the American Heart Association. The York Heart Walk at Cousler Park in Manchester Township and the Adams County Heart Walk at United Hook and Ladder Company in New Oxford raised nearly $104,000 for the American Heart Association, exceeding their goal of $100,000.
The dedicated group of participants included heart disease survivors and their families, proudly wearing matching homemade t-shirts, commemorative Heart Walk baseball caps and Heart Hero capes. Among them was 70-year-old heart disease and stroke survivor Aaron Wilford Jr. from York.
Aaron suffered his first stroke in 1995 shortly after finishing a run and workout. Despite noticing some blurred vision and balance issues, he tried to ignore his symptoms and didn’t tell anyone that something was wrong. Almost a full week later, he stood up at Bethlehem Church to lead worship as the church’s senior pastor, but his symptoms could no longer be ignored. A physician who was visiting that day noticed that his speech was slurred and advised Aaron’s wife to take him to the hospital where it was confirmed that Aaron had suffered a stroke. He also developed a heart arrhythmia and received his first pacemaker and implantable defibrillator.
After a series of additional procedures over the next decades, it became clear that Aaron’s heart was failing. He was unable to qualify for a heart transplant due to other health conditions, so his doctors recommended that he receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a battery-operated, mechanical pump device that’s surgically implanted to help his heart pump blood to the rest of his body. He initially refused the treatment, but due to a COVID-19 hospitalization and the urging of his family, he finally underwent the open-heart procedure to implant the LVAD in March 2021.
“Thank God I celebrated one year in March and have had no complications and no infections thanks to a great medical staff and my wife, my children and my congregation,” said Aaron. “I feel better now than I have felt in a long time. I realize I have a handicap but I am not handicapped. I continue to live life to the fullest.”
Aaron joined hundreds of other participants along the walk route, including teams from local companies and families. In York County, the top fundraising company was the YMCA of York and the top individual fundraiser was YMCA of York team member Cori Strathmeyer. In Adams County, the top fundraising company was Conewago Enterprises and the top individual fundraiser was Conewago Enterprises team member Samone Hudgins.
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.
The York and Adams County Heart Walks were sponsored by WellSpan Health, UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of York, Conewago Enterprises, Glatfelter Insurance Group, ProMedica, Ira E. Lady American Legion Post 262 and ACNB Bank. Michael Cogliano, president of WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, served as chair of the events.
Donations toward the 2022 York and Adams County Heart Walks will be accepted through Oct. 10, 2022. Visit heart.org/yorkwalk to learn more and make a donation. View more photos from the event by visiting @AHAPennsylvania on Facebook.
Communications Director for the American Heart Association in Central Pennsylvania, including Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, State College, Altoona and Johnstown.