MERCED — More than 600 people gathered at Mercy Medical Center’s 5K Run-Walk and Health Fair this weekend to learn about and promote stroke awareness.
Saturday’s event raised about $6,000 for the medical center’s stroke program, according to organizers.
Lillian Sanchez, event organizer and community educator, said the run-walk and fair was a way to educate and engage the community on the importance of identifying and preventing strokes.
“The goal of organizing the 5K is to provide people with information on how to react and how to do it in a timely manner,” Sanchez said. “Being aware of stroke warning signs and symptoms is key to reducing the possibility of long-term effects or even death.”
She said she was pleased with the number of participants who registered for this year’s event.
“In total we had about 300 runners, and that’s double the number we had at last year’s run-walk, so that’s very exciting,” she said.
Sanchez explained that this year’s success was partly due to outreach by area fitness clubs and health organizations.
“This year we challenged different community groups to form teams and come out here,” she said. “I think that made it a bit more competitive, and it helped draw a bigger crowd.”
Participants said they attended the event for different reasons.
Runner Victor Martinez participated in the 5K in support of his father-in-law Dennis Koplin, who is a stroke survivor. Martinez was awarded an honorary medal for running in the event while pushing a stroller with his three children so that they, too, could take part.
“This is our second year doing this, and it just feels good to do something to help,” he said. “My father-in-law looks forward to this event, so we like to bring out the entire family.”
Merced resident Sandra Ruiz decided to take part in the run-walk with friends from her Curves fitness group.
“No one in my family has ever suffered a stroke, but I do think it’s an important cause to support,” she said. “It was a nice walk, and I’m just glad I made it to the finish line.”
Health screenings and stroke information stations, including a mobile screening unit to measure blood pressure, were also on site.
A range of booths passed out information that taught people how to get smart about stroke prevention, identification, and treatment.
The family fair also included a rock-climbing wall for children, Zumba classes and nutrition presentations.
Organizers said the event helped kick off May as National Stroke Awareness Month.
According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of all strokes are preventable. Although there are risk factors that cannot be changed, such as age and family history, others are a result of lifestyle.
High blood pressure, tobacco smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity can be controlled or treated, yet they remain some of the leading causes of strokes.
Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org