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Hearts of gold raise money for disease

Thousands of people turned out for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk at Florida International University.

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to the Miami Herald
Susan Holloway, 46, has overcome adversity more than once: At 21 years old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor — and just six years ago she suffered a stroke.
“You need to tell yourself that you are in control of your illness and that you are a strong person,” said Holloway, who had to undergo intensive therapy to learn how to walk and eat again.
Wearing a red cap signifying survival, Holloway was one of 9,000 people who signed up to run or walk 3.1 miles around Florida International University’s main campus, 11200 SW Eighth St., during the American Heart Association’s Oct. 30 Heart Walk.
The annual event helps raise funds and awareness for heart disease and stroke, among the top health threats in the nation.
It was the first time the event has been held there. John Rock, dean of FIU’s college of medicine, said he was excited to see a large crowd. In the past, the event had been held at Tropical Park.
“I thought it would be important to have the walk at FIU because we are committed to find a cure for heart disease,” said Rock, after speaking to participants. “As a community, medical school and university, it is a great place for the heart walk to occur to allow us to celebrate what we bring to help fight this disease that affects all families.”
Saturday’s event raised about $550,000 in donations to the American Heart Association, which will go into research, education and community programs relating to heart disease and stroke.
Mary Dargenis-Fernandez helped raise funds in honor of her husband Antonio Fernandez, who died of a cardiac arrest four months ago at 34. More than 60 co-workers, family and friends came out to honor Fernandez, who worked as general manager of a Chili’s.
“He is with us today,” said Dargenis-Fernandez of Miami Beach, sporting a yellow T-shirt with Antonio’s name. “This is just one step in our journey. We have a long way to go but I have an army of people behind me. We loved him and they love him and we want to turn this around.”
The team raised about $6,000.
For Teresa Bueno, a heart transplant coordinator at Jackson Memorial Hospital, it was gratifying to see patients healthy.
“When you see somebody so ill and you see them a week later after a transplant and you see them go home and they are able to do things that they couldn’t do before is what keeps us going,” said Bueno, whose team included 20 people who had received a heart transplant.
Heart transplant recipient and Miramar resident Jose Romero, 64, was overwhelmed to be surrounded by supporters.
“This cause is to pay back what we have received from God,” said Romero, who received a heart transplant three years ago, “and raise awareness to those who can donate their organs because this is a gift of life to those people who suffer.”

For information visit www.miamidadeheartwalk.org.

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