By MIRANDA ORSO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Six-month-old Gavin McCann may not be ready to take his first steps just yet, but he and other heart disease survivors inspired about 1,500 people to stride many miles on the U.S. Oval Saturday for the 2012 My Heart, My Life Heart Walk.
The American Heart Association’s annual fundraiser aims to raise money and awareness necessary to battle both heart disease and stroke, while highlighting survivors’ stories like Gavin.
As the 2012 Heart Hero, his battle with heart disease started before he was even born.
McCann’s mother, Erin Terry, of Morrisonville, along with about 30 family members, walked as part of Team Gavin in support of his courageous fight.
Terry found out 32 weeks into her pregnancy that her baby was suffering from critical pulmonary stenosis, a tricuspid valve defect and an enlarged ventricle.
“I was just trying to figure out why this happened, if it was something I did or if there was something that I could have done to prevent it,” she said. “We were angry, frustrated and worried.”
Eight hours after McCann was born, doctors put a balloon stint in the newborn’s heart and prepared the family for the best and worst
“He ended up doing better than the best-case scenario. He’s a fighter. He was released from the hospital
before I was,” Terry said. “They said he would be out in seven to 14 days and he was out in three.”
The family was all smiles as McCann was passed around for one loving hug after another following the walk — which he completed in his stroller.
“We are just happy to be here. We are fortunate because listening to people talk today there are just so many stories that don’t have happy endings,” Terry smiled. “It just goes to show you how many good people are in this community.”
American Heart Association communications director Audra Burns agreed with Terry, and was pleased with how the residents, once again, rallied for support.
“The money we raise funds the residents and recovery and that’s why the community rallies behind local residents like Gavin,” she said.
Burns said so many come out to show their support because heart disease reaches so many people, on different levels.
“Eighty percent of the people who walk know someone who has been affected in some way,” she said. “To have a place like Plattsburgh rally behind an event such as this is really motivational. And that’s why we do what we do.”
The 18 members of the Catholic Daughters of the Americans Court of St. Monica’s in Peru walked along with team mascot Marty the dog for the fifth consecutive year in honor of people in their lives who are victims of heart disease.
“A lot of folks, including our Father Allen and Father Richard, have heart problems. This is part of our unity and charity work,” team member Jane Woods said, smiling at the finish line.
The Heart Throbs pounded the pavement for the fourth year in a row in support of team leader Kate Ward of Jay, who had heart surgery in 2008.
“There are about 20 of us this year — my best friends, brothers, cousins. We get a lot of support,” Ward said as the team celebrated completing the 3-mile walk. “Unfortunately, we have a lot of heart disease in our family.”
As of Saturday morning, the event raised about $90,000 just in walker fundraising monies, according to Community Bank manager Jim Snook of Plattsburgh. He helped out in the registration tent before walking in the event as one of the corporate sponsors.
“We helped take in the donations and then moved the money to a secure location where it could be counted,” he said.
HeartWalk Chairperson P.J. Whitbeck helped his team from Coldwell Banker raise $1,225 for the event he has supported for many years.
“I would say about 1,500 people is a terrific turnout on a gorgeous, sunny day,” he said.
Whitbeck said the final totals for monies raised will be made available after corporate donations are added to the $90,000 from the walk.
“We hope to keep on counting,” he said.
Email Miranda Orso: