The 2012 American Heart Association Heart Walk

On the same day that we got confirmation of the condition our baby would be born with, I was doing some searching on the interweb and found out that there was going to be a Heart Walk in Charlotte. Cool! But the Heart Walk would be in 3 days, which definitely didn’t give me a ton of time to raise money. But that was ok, I was going to do it anyway, in honor of my unborn son because life is short, right?

So I signed up, declined all prizes based on funds raised (except the t-shirt, of course) and put something on facebook about my efforts. Thanks to some really great friends and family, we raised about $600 for the American Heart Association in 3 days! Awesome! Next step was deciding on some dope swag for the Heart Walk itself. There would be lots of large teams there walking together, all rocking matching shirts and whatnot. So how was I – a solo walker – supposed to represent? I decided on a plain black t-shirt with a big band-aid across the chest. On the band-aid I wrote “Keep fighting! <3, Dad”. I would always take time to talk to the babies while my wife was pregnant, and “Keep Fighting!” was what I always kept saying.

The morning of the Heart Walk was pretty exciting because I really didn’t know what to expect. We got there in the morning, parked, and I turned in my money I raised. We had some time to wander around Uptown Charlotte to visit all the vendor tents: we picked up some free yogurt, chocolate milk, and even dog biscuits for our Schnauzer. There was a tent for heart disease survivors to pick up a free hat, and there was a tent for stroke survivors to pick up a hat as well. There was also a tent for children with heart issues, so of course I stopped there. They gave me a simple red rubber bracelet to wear, which I wore with pride. They also had little superhero capes that said “Heart Hero” on the back. I asked for one, saying that my son would be born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and the lady at the tent said, “Wow, I know you’re telling the truth merely because you can pronounce that.” It was pretty funny and I was thrilled to collect some memories to put away for our baby in the future.

The next part of the Heart Walk preparation was a pretty big deal. Up until this point, Bekah and I had a hard time deciding on names for the twins. Heck, we had a hard enough time deciding on Hudson for our oldest. We were pretty settled on the name Grant for one of the boys, but didn’t have a good name for our little heart warrior. Bekah did her due dilligence by looking up names that meant “strong” or “fighter”, while I suggested names like “Yankee Stadium” or “Beast”. One name she did like was Nolan, which means fighter. I, on the other hand, was kinda meh about that name at first. I can’t really explain why, but I couldn’t really settle on anything. So fast-forward to now, and I find myself at another tent near the starting line, where you can get these big stickers to put on you that says “I’m walking for” and you can fill it out with whatever you want. I sat and stared at that thing for a long time, because I just didn’t know what to put: should I put “the toughest gummy bear ever,” or “my unborn heart baby”? Finally I looked down at the band-aid on my shirt, uncapped the sharpie and wrote “BABY NOLAN,” and then stuck it on me. That was it…Nolan is who he was gonna be, and he was going to be a fighter!

I kissed my wife, who was way too pregnant to do the walk, and found a spot near the starting line. As the street filled with people, it was really emotional seeing all the names represented by walkers: I even saw lots of kids with their capes. It made me feel hopeful. When the Heart Walk was officially ready to begin, they did a countdown from 10 and with each number, it was just more and more amazing to me…and emotional: here I was at this Heart Walk, something I NEVER thought I’d be doing, representing a baby who will have the most unknown future ever. But I’m his Daddy, and so I will walk…and walk again if I have to, because I love him.

The Walk was a lot of fun, I got to see the Panthers mascot, Sir Purr, and even hung out with some members of the Husqvarna Team. Eventually I just took out my mp3 player, put in the headphones, and listened to some Elevation Worship through the whole walk. It was peaceful, and exciting, and cathartic at the same time, if that makes any sense. They had volunteers at various checkpoints cheering everyone on wildly…each time it made me feel like I was really having an impact.

3 miles later I got to the finish line where Bekah awaited me with an oh-so-delicious frappucino. Yum. I think on the way back we stopped at Cracker Barrel and I still had all my Heart Walk stuff on. People asked me about it and I told them why I was walking, and it felt good. It was the start of something I’d be doing A LOT in the coming months…and probably for a long, long time, which is ok with me.

I got home and kept all the Heart Walk stuff I gathered so I can put it away for Nolan to see when he’s older. I even kept the band-aid and Heart Walk sticker.

If there’s a Heart Walk happening near you, I definitely encourage you to do it…it’s amazing, and a lot of fun, and you meet some people with incredible stories. I couldn’t wait to do the next Heart Walk, this time with a TEAM.


About Chris Perez

My name is Chris aka HLHS Dad: I’m married with 3 sons. I love coffee and Yankees baseball. Be kind to one another.

Posted on October 14, 2013, in awareness and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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