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Heart Walk draws crowd

| Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier
Four-year-old Julia Vernet looks at the hearts that lined the sidewalks in memory and honor of those affected by heart disease. Her great uncle, Harold Campbell, passed away from a heart attack. The 2013 American Heart Association Fayette County Heart Walk took place Saturday morning at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.
Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier
Tom Broadwater (right), open heart surgery survivor and walk spokesman, holds up his torch to begin the 2013 Fayette County Heart Walk on Saturday morning at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. The Heart Walk is held to raise awareness for heart disease and the advancements in medicine.

Tom Broadwater, this year's Fayette County Heart Walk spokesperson, was diagnosed with heart disease several weeks before his son died of cancer.

Doctors at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh told Broadwater he needed a pacemaker and bypass surgery to save his life.

Broadwater told the doctors he couldn't undergo the surgery because his son was dying of cancer. Doctors did surgery to implant a pacemaker in his heart and sent him home to spend the final days with his dying son.

“My son died one week and one day after I came home from the hospital,” he said as his eyes filled with tears. “My son is now in heaven with the angels.

“After my son died, I went to the hospital to have the surgery. It was very difficult, but I made it through the surgery and the recovery. I actually had one foot in the grave. But I'm alive today because of the American Heart Association and all of you.”

Broadwater addressed the crowd just minutes before the 22nd annual Heart Walk began on Saturday morning at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, in North Union.

Tricia Desvarro, the Fayette County Division director for the American Heart Association, said she expected an estimated 300 people to participate in the fundraising event. This year's goal was to raise $65,000.

“It's a beautiful day for the Heart Walk,” Desvarro told the crowd. “It isn't raining. The weather hasn't been this nice in years. We're hoping that the nice weather brings more people out.”

Desvarro said money raised at the event will be used to fund medical research and education.

“As you know, this event is very important to help raise lifesaving funds for the American Heart Association,” she said. “This Heart Walk and the other heart walks that are taking place locally and nationally are a great opportunity for us to promote health and wellness throughout the community and to raise funds to combat the number one health issue among families, friends and co-workers.”

Desvarro said she has been involved with the American Heart Association for the past 17 years.

“Each year we are so thankful for the outpouring of support from our Fayette County residents,” she said. “I am happy that so many of you also understand the importance of helping the American Heart Association to continue heart research and education.”

Ed Francyzk, president of United Bank and his wife, Judy, served as this year's chairman and co-chairman for the event.

Francyzk said he decided to become involved in the Heart Walk because his mother died of heart disease when she was 60. The disease also claimed the lives of his mother-in-law and grandmother. His cousin's baby underwent surgery to repair a hole in her heart when she was only 2 months old.

“When I was asked to serve as this year's chairman, I thought it was time for Judy and I to give back to the American Heart Association and the community,” Francyzk said.

Francyzk will pass the leadership role to Ed Balling of Fairchance, who will serve as the chairman of the 2014 Fayette County Heart Walk.

Desvarro introduced 2-year-old Shoby Fronczek and her parents, Jason and Trish, to the crowd. Jason and Trish are Laurel Highlands High School graduates who now live in the Pittsburgh area.

“We found out the day she was born that Shoby had a hole in her heart,” Jason Fronczek said. “Doctors did the surgery to repair her heart when she was only 2 months old. We've been told that our daughter is going to live a full, healthy life.”

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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