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Saving Lives While Staying In — One Step at a Time

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With the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic keeping more Americans at home, the American Heart Association (AHA), the leading voluntary health organization focused on heart and brain health for all, is embracing the new normal and moved its iconic Austin Heart & Stroke Walk online. 

This year’s reimagined Heart Walk kicked off in late September with the four-week Austin Heart Challenge. Participants and their teams had the opportunity to choose how they “laced up” or participated in the steps-based challenge and worked to achieve at least 10,000 steps. 

The National Charity League – Lake Travis team achieved 23,708,960 steps and took the AHA’s Top Fitness Team Award.

The National Charity League – Lake Travis’ mission is to foster mother-daughter relationships in a philanthropic organization committed to community service, leadership development and cultural experiences. 

Why did the National Charity League – Lake Travis decide to participate in the virtual Heart Walk this year? 

Recognizing that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death, the National Charity League believes that educating women about heart disease starts with conversations between mothers and daughters. The national organization formed a strategic alliance with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women and local chapters support AHA through various activities throughout the year. Two years ago, one of our board members discovered that she had a previously undiagnosed heart condition after attending a NCL meeting with a cardiologist who spoke about the importance of getting your heart checked. She was inspired to get screened after that event. The Lake Travis Chapter has participated in the Heart Walk for many years, so we were thrilled that the virtual format allowed us to continue despite the pandemic restrictions.   

What are some of the fun and creative ways members participated in the challenge?

Team Captain, Stacey Lehman, has participated in the AHA Heart Walk for a decade. Her dedication to promoting cardiovascular health made her the perfect person to coordinate both the Steps Challenge and the Heart Walk for our chapter. She encouraged members to get at least 30,000 steps and turned it into a competition for our moms and daughters to see who could get the most steps. The result has been unprecedented engagement from our members! We’re recognizing the mom and daughter with the most steps at our November meeting.  

How did the Austin Heart & Stroke Walk bring your members together during this time of social distancing?

We held several small neighborhood walks with groups of less than 10 members and we asked members who have been in the organization for several years to pair up with new members to go on a walk together. This fostered connection between members who haven’t been able to gather in person for more than six months. 

“Knowing how important cardiovascular health is, we were thrilled to find that we could still participate virtually this year,” says Lara Anton, President of the Lake Travis Chapter of National Charity League. “Our members were challenged to log at least 30,000 steps in the month leading up to the Heart Walk and they surpassed our expectations with their commitment to AHA.”

The Top Individual award recipient, Jessica Dykes, representing Abbott Laboratories achieved 686,557 steps in four weeks. Abbott has been a long-time supporter of the Austin American Heart Association and this is Jessica’s fifth year participating in the walk. 

Why did you decide to participate in the Austin Heart Challenge? 

Not participating, virtual or not, was not an option. The Heart Walk is something that my family and I love to do! 

How did you achieve your step goal?

I would turn my phone on, put it in my arm phone case and go EVERYDAY! I have two girls under four who have inherited my “always have to do something” ways so we are always on the go. We walk to school some days or ride our bikes, we jump on the trampoline several times a day, take our dogs for daily walks around the neighborhood, play hopscotch (more than I would like) and most importantly, we have dance parties in the morning before school and always before bed.  

I also make a point to workout at least once a day just for me. I spin on my home bike and bust out my old school workout DVDs when my husband takes over kid duty.

Why is it important to continue to give back to our community during this time?

So many people’s lives have been changed this year due to COVID-19, we have to try to do everything we can to make a difference where we can. I am blessed to be able to give back and work for a company like Abbott that not only encourages community involvement but provides the resources and connections to do so in ways that may not be possible otherwise.

About the 2020 Austin Heart Walk Digital Experience 

“Now, more than ever, we’re all looking for ways to connect with others, stay active and stay encouraged,” says Drew Thomas, Regional Senior Heart Walk Director. “The virtual format allows everyone to continue to support our lifesaving mission, while adapting to our current environment. We are grateful for the support from the National Charity League – Lake Travis, Jessica and Abbott.”

The 2020 Austin Heart & Stroke Walk Digital Experience is presented by Healthy for Good Sponsors, Ascension Seton and Texas Mutual Insurance Company. The funds raised from the Austin Heart Walk go towards research, advocacy, CPR training and resources to promote better health. Learn more at www.austinheartwalk.org.

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