When local officials meet Wednesday, Dec. 8, for a kickoff meeting of the annual Heart Walk, one important face will be missing.
Mary Knox McNeill, who for years staunchly supported the McDuffie County Heart Walk as well as other worthy community causes, passed away last February, but her memory will be honored at this year's event scheduled Saturday, Feb. 26.
"The fact that it's in her memory -- I think she would be very pleased with that," said Andy Knox, her brother.
"For years, she worked so very hard for the heart board. She was a wonderful woman," Chamber of Commerce Director Carolyn Gilbert remembered.
Although Mrs. McNeill supported many worthy causes, her presence at the annual walks had a personal connection.
"Her interest in that goes back to the fact that our father died of heart disease," Mr. Knox said.
The annual walk will begin at 9:15 a.m. at Thomson Middle School with a goal of raising $40,000 for research and education on heart disease. In addition, the walk will increase community awareness of cardiovascular disease while offering some fun outdoor activity.
Officials will be looking for community support during the kickoff Dec. 8 at 12:30 p.m at the Depot. Luther Welsh, honorary chair of this year's event, will join other leaders as they discuss aspects of the walk and garner local support to battle heart disease and stroke. The public is invited.
"The Heart Walk is the premier walk event in our area. It is a unique campaign that blends the benefits of physical activity, community involvement, and personal giving to fight the number one and number three killers -- cardiovascular disease and stroke," according to Patricia Rinker, regional director of the American Heart Association.
The Heart Walk brings together a range of individuals who walk for a variety of reasons, sometimes in memory of loved ones who have or had cardiovascular disease. Others walk to support heart and stroke research and education programs.Ý Research funded by the association has produced significant discoveries such as CPR, life-extending drugs, pacemakers, bypass surgery and surgical techniques to repair heart defects, according to the organization's web site.Ý
Many who benefited from discoveries like these walk in the annual event as "Red Cap Survivors," and are distinguished by wearing a red baseball cap with a "Fighting Back" inscription.
To combat heart disease and stroke, which kills 950,000 Americans each year, about 750,000 individuals across the country will participate in the walk.
Among those will be walkers from McDuffie County who were convinced to join the effort by Mrs. McNeill
"She was always, in a quiet, unassuming manner, encouraging people to participate. She was a charming person who was concerned about others, and her participating in the heart walk is evidence," Mr. Knox said.