A large group of people pose for a photo. Most people are wearing matching blue T-shirts. The group is outside on grass; behind them are the tops of white tents.

WoodmenLife Walks to Support Heart Health

Jun 10, 20246/10/2024



Home Office Happenings

By Gary Peterson, Senior Copywriter

One look at the stats and you understand why it’s important to support heart health. According to the American Heart Association, on average:

  • Someone in the U.S. dies of cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds
  • An American has a heart attack every 40 seconds

That’s why it’s great to be part of an organization that supports heart heath. WoodmenLife was the finish line sponsor for the 2024 Greater Omaha Heart & Stroke Walk in May. In addition:

  • We were one of the top five corporate fundraisers
  • WoodmenLife had one of the top five team fundraisers
  • President & CEO Denise M. McCauley was one of the top individual fundraisers

With our corporate match, WoodmenLife raised more than $55,000 to help fight cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer in the U.S.

It’s Personal to Support Heart Health

Professional headshot for Gary PetersonThe Heart & Stroke Walk has a rallying cry of “Why We Walk.” For me, it’s always been for Mom and Dad. Both suffered strokes that robbed them of quality of life, then eventually took them.

This year was different, though, because it marked 20 years since my own experience with heart-related mortality. Before this year, I’d always discounted my past in favor of my parents. It was the “20” that gave me pause.

When my family stepped off from the Heart & Stroke Walk’s starting line on this beautiful spring day, my steps were a lot easier than some of the last ones I took before my diagnosis of congestive heart failure in 2004.

I remember my wife following me up the stairs one night all those years ago as I struggled to make it to the top. I was out of breath, not knowing liquid was filling my lungs.

“You might want to get that checked,” my wife said sternly, tired of my procrastination in seeing a doctor.

Finally, I did, and I found out my heart was only pumping at about one-quarter of its normal capacity. With treatment, I fully recovered.

That made this year’s walk more special. “Thanks for surviving,” my wife smiled, as I held a plaque noting my 20-year survivor status. It felt good.

Many people, my doctors have told me, don’t come back from congestive heart failure the way I did. I’m deeply moved by the support and efforts being made to promote heart health.

Photo is looking over a large group of people's heads and toward a red sign indicating the starting line of the Heart & Stroke Walk.

Why We Walk

WoodmenLife had more than 70 walkers registered to support heart heath during the Heart & Stroke Walk. Each of them had their reasons for lacing up their sneakers for the 1-mile or 3-mile walks.

Here’s a sampling:

  • Carrie Spencer: Suzy and I walked in honor of my departed parents. My dad suffered from strokes, which eventually ended his life, and my mom had a heart attack.
  • Lauren Myers: My grandpa passed away after a stroke, and my step-grandpa is living with the effects from the stroke he had about six years ago. I was going to skip the walk this year because we had a lot going on, but I learned the Thursday before that one of my best friends had just lost her father to a heart attack. I saw that as a sign that I really needed to go. I walked with my mom, sister, best friend, and dogs.
  • Janna Binder: All my grandparents passed away from the effects of heart disease. Several years ago, I began running to improve my own health. For me, the Heart & Stroke Walk is important because it raises awareness and funds for this important issue.
  • Terri Pressley: I have walked with the American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Walk and other walks for several years. I enjoy walking and have been working at improving my health for years. Heart disease, diabetes and cancer have taken a lot of my family members away from me, so walking in events such as this one help me feel like I am firing back at them.

Supporting Heart Health & Terri Pressley

Professional headshot for Terri PressleyThere’s more to Terri’s story. She registered to walk in last year’s event, but she had to miss it. For years, Terri lived with diagnoses of high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and diabetes. Then, not long before the 2023 Heart & Stroke Walk, she found she was in active heart failure and that three of her main arteries were blocked — two of them at 100% and one of them at 90%.

Within a few days, Terri underwent triple bypass surgery, joining what she called the “zipper club” because of the open-heart surgery scar on her chest.

“I hope you can imagine my joy at being able to participate this year,” she said. “WoodmenLife rallied around me, and I felt celebrated and loved!

“I was honored to be the poster girl for one of our teams this year: Team Sunshine. Sunshine is my nickname.”

We All Can Support Heart Health

We have all been impacted by heart attacks or strokes, either personally or through someone we know. Heart health permeates everything we do. That’s why WoodmenLife and our associates keep the Heart & Stroke Walk on our calendars.

Visit WoodmenLife.org for more about WoodmenLife.

Visit www2.heart.org for more information about the Heart & Stroke Walk.


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