HUNDREDS HELP HEARTS GET HEALTHY; WESTLAKE VILLAGE TREK RAISES MONEY FOR RESEARCH.
After a bite of breakfast and a brisk warm-up exercise in the chill of a cold Saturday morning, more than 750 people took off for a 5K walk through the Conejo Valley, bringing attention and money for the American Heart Association.
The event is the first collaborative walk between the Conejo Valley and Las Virgenes divisions of the American Heart Association.
Nearly 100 teams from companies throughout the area arrived to walk the 5K route through Westlake Village, Lakeview and Lindero Canyon. Officials said they hoped to raise about $80,000 for heart disease and stroke research, targeting ailments that kill 950,000 Americans annually.
``Most people's lives have been touched by this, with someone in their family, or themselves, with heart disease,'' said Rick Schroeder, president of the Las Virgenes Division.
That was true for many walkers, who said the cause was special to them because they had relatives who are living with heart disease.
Nickie Fuladi, who was participating with co-workers at Amgen, said her father first had a triple bypass surgery in 1982 and a quadruple bypass a few years later.
``I do it because if somebody can get a chance like he did, then it's all worth it,'' she said. ``I guess whatever research they are doing, it works.''
Others were walking in tribute to the memory of men and women who did not survive heart attacks.
Matt Price, a young teen walking with his parents and several workers from Bank of America, was 4 years old when his great-grandpa Ray Price died of a heart attack.
He watched as his paternal grandfather, an American Heart Association volunteer, tried to revive him to no avail.
``We want to show that we're trying to stay in good fitness, remember them and try to avoid the causes of heart disease,'' said Matt's mother, Cindy. ``It's good to remember that it affects everyone, no matter who you are, how you live.''
A testament to that was the walk's guest of honor, Kate Klugman, a physically active mother of two babies, who suffered a stroke three years ago at the age of 34.
The Manhattan Beach resident battled back from paralysis and has become a national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. She said she attends as many of these fund-raising walks as she can.
``I love the atmosphere of the people,'' she said. ``They really get into it. They're really experiencing life, and that is what it's all about, living.''
PHOTO (1--Color) Frankie Westall, left, and Ali Sandoval, both 7, sport balloon hats during Saturday's 5K walk.
(2) Irish wolfhounds Kerrigan, left, and Rory accompany Ron Cagnon in the Heart Association benefit walk.
Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Special to the Daily News