Christine Kisiel, left, executive director of the American Heart Association in the Mohawk Valley, and Makaila Dell’Anno, 10, get ready for America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk May 15.

Fundraising will continue through June 30 for event that was digital in 2021

From Mohawk Valley Community College to Barneveld to the 840 Trail, supporters of the American Heart Association were out in force for America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk 2021 Saturday, May 15. COVID-19 meant the event was digital, and participants walked or ran where they were.

By noon, the event had raised $425,000 to fight heart disease and stroke. People can continue to donate – and to improve their own health by walking or running – until June 30.

“I don’t have heart disease on just one day a year, so I will continue to fundraise for America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk until June 30,” said Albert Pylinski, the top individual fundraiser of the event so far. Pylinski was one of the Red Cap Ambassadors to the 2021 Run & Walk, a group that shares their stories to raise awareness about heart disease. “I had a heart attack 20 years ago and have been hospitalized six times. The work of the American Heart Association means that I am still here to enjoy life with my family and friends.”

Another group that is fundraising until June 30 is the Leaders with Heart, a group of nine people who have committed to raising $125,000 by June 30.

“I am chairing Leaders with Heart because life is a gift and every moment matters,” said Edward M. Barone III, Business Development Officer of Empower Federal Credit Union. “If we have learned anything from this pandemic, it is that life is precious and time is short. Fill your HEART with gratitude and invest in the ones you love.”

Steve Gassner is the logistics chair of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, a role he has held for years.

“There is usually a large crew of us in the gym at Utica College, on the Walk route, at the start line,” Gassner, an administrative officer at the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and chair of the Mohawk Valley Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, said. “I know we all keep saying that everything changed this year and that’s an understatement. I’m glad that so many people got out and walked or ran on their own, because the thing that didn’t change is the need to keep fighting heart disease and stroke. We will keep fundraising until June 30 so that we can all live longer, healthier lives.”

Jon Rennie received this year’s Lifestyle Change Award. This is the 10th year that Sovena presented the award to someone who made dramatic improvements to their health. Rennie’s brother Michael nominated him for the award, writing that Jon Rennie began a health journey after learning that he had a genetic mutation that has led to pacemakers at early ages, early death, cardiomyopathy and even heart transplants in the family. Jon changed his life, his brother wrote, so his daughter wouldn’t have to think of losing her father at a young age.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award,” Jon Rennie said. “Although I’m not to my final goal, I have dropped over 100lbs so far. I am much healthier because of it, and it’s about taking steps in a positive direction.”

Donations can be made until June 30 at, or by mailing them to the American Heart Association, 125 Business Park Drive, Suite 106, Utica, N.Y. 13502. To inquire about hours that the American Heart Association office is open to drop off donations, contact or call 315.580.3956.\

Steve Gassner, right, administrative officer with the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and logistics chair of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, and his wife, Kelly Gassner, left, meet up with Ticker on the 840 Trail as they participated in the digital event Saturday, May 15. People walked or ran where they were and supported the American Heart Association’s fight against heart disease and stroke. Donations will be accepted until June 30 at or by mail at 125 Business Park Drive, Suite 106, Utica.

By martha

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