Kansas Citians walk to raise money, increase awareness about heart disease

Jalen Kimmel, 12, was up early Saturday for an event she didn’t want to miss: the 2013 Kansas City Heart Walk.

The walk was a major fundraiser for the local chapter of the American Heart Association and a day to appreciate an estimated 10,000 people coming out to help the cause of fighting heart disease.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Jalen, who was born with a heart defect. “I’m not alone.”

Her 15-year-old brother, Ethen Kimmel, who also was born with a heart defect, was there along with her parents, who attend the Heart Walk every year to help bring attention to the leading cause of death in the U.S.

“Everyone knows someone who has been affected by heart disease,” father Randy Kimmel said.

By Saturday morning, $670,000 had been raised in donations mainly through pledges by those who walked a route near the Country Club Plaza. The total is expected to reach about $1 million when all donations come in, said Angie Galindo, executive director of the local chapter.

The money, which accounts for most of the chapter’s $1.7 million annual budget, goes to research and programs in the Kansas City area. That includes lobbying for changes that could improve the odds for those with heart disease, such as laws requiring hospitals to test newborns for critical congenital heart defects.

The Missouri General Assembly recently approved legislation mandating the test in the state and sent the measure to Gov. Jay Nixon for his consideration. The testing remains voluntary in Kansas with no change pending.

But on Saturday, the attention was more on raising money and honoring those who had died from heart disease.

Clyde and Mandy Fairbanks carried a banner with a photo of their child Tristin Riley Fairbanks, who had a heart defect when born and lived only a few weeks before dying on May 20, 2008.

“It helps us emotionally to be here,” Mandy Fairbanks said. “We do this every year in Tristin’s memory.”

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