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Blair County Heart Walk to honor Landon Fickes

He was fighting for his life even before he came into the world. Shortly before his birth on January 24, 1992, Landon’s fetal heartbeat could not be detected. After his delivery by emergency C-section, he was transported to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh where he was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries, a condition in which the positions of the pulmonary artery and the aorta are reversed.
Physicians also discovered a third degree heart block, tricuspid valve regurgitation, and several holes in the heart, which, except for one, eventually closed on their own.
During the next few years, the little boy would endure an enlarged heart, three pacemaker insertions, and problems with inflammation of his heart’s outer lining. Over time and with medical intervention, Landon overcame his ordeal. He became involved in art, music and singing, and while attending a physician-run heart camp sponsored by the American Heart Association and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, participated in wall climbing, archery, martial arts, canoeing, and golfing. He often enjoyed swimming and trips to the Pittsburgh Zoo with his brothers and sister Joshua, Anthony and Courtney. On Monday, April 11, 2005, while at Tiger Stadium in Hollidaysburg, Landon Tyler Fickes’ heart stopped beating. He was 13-years-old.
To his parents, Ray and Marsena Fickes, Landon was a special child who touched lives with a smile and a hug for everyone. Two of his most memorable accomplishments were his positions as the Blair County Heart Walk Poster Child in 2002 and 2003.
“What Landon would want us to focus on is the fact that thanks to research and education funded by the American Heart/Stroke Association, he lived a great life,” Marsena noted. “What our family would like to convey to everyone is that by becoming involved in the heart walk by sponsorship, teams, or donations, you too may touch a life or a heart that needs mending,” she explained.
Remembering Landon is the theme for the 2005 Blair County Heart Walk. The event will take place at its new location at the Altoona Campus of The Pennsylvania State University on Saturday, September 24. Parking will be available in the Ivyside lots and registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the vicinity of the E. Raymond Smith Building. Registration is also available on line at www.heartwalk.kintera.org/blairpa.
Pre-walk activities will include music, face painting, a performance by The Heart of Gold Twirlers from Hollidaysburg under the direction of Marsena Fickes, and a health awareness area featuring nutritional, physical fitness, and heart health information for adults and children.
Following warm-up exercises, the walk, led by heart attack and stroke survivors, will begin at 10 a.m. Thanks to donations by local florists, all walkers will be given a flower to place at a special memorial honoring Landon. The 3.1-mile self-paced course, marked by route signs donated by local organizations, will begin and end at the pavilion in front of the Adler Gymnasium. American Heart/Stroke Association volunteers will be available throughout the course to assist walkers.
A post-walk celebration will include food, beverages, and prizes donated by area businesses and an awards presentation. Trophies, donated by Shields Trophy, will be presented to the company having the most walkers, the company raising the most money and the individual raising the most money. A Vision R2000 Recumbent bicycle, donated by Natural Gains, will also be awarded to the individual raising the most money.
The national sponsor for the 2005 Heart Walk is Subway. Locally, the Blair County Heart Walk’s Golden Pacemaker Sponsor is HealthSouth and the Silver Pacemaker Sponsor is Highmark. Bronze Pacemaker sponsors are: The Altoona Chapter of Credit Unions, Cardiology Associates of Altoona, M&T Bank, NPC, Inc., Sheetz, Inc., The Blair Companies, and The Winds at Mattern Orchard.
Media sponsors are The Altoona Mirror, WTAJ TV, Lamar Advertising and radio stations FROGGY 98, WALY 103.9, HOT100 and ROCKY 104.9. Charlotte Ames of WTAJ TV will serve as the Heart Walk’s honorary chairwoman and emcee.
As the Association’s signature fund-raising event, the Heart Walk promotes physical activity and heart-healthy living in a fun family environment. Individuals as well as teams are encouraged to participate.
According to Heart Walk chairpersons Scott Filler and Cathy Wilt, last year’s event raised $34,000. Walkers collect flat donations in which 75 percent of the proceeds remain in the local county for educational programs in schools, work sites, and community organizations. In Pennsylvania, the research at teaching hospitals such as The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Geisinger Medical Center, and Children’s Hospitals of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia benefits from monies raised by communities supporting the American Heart/Stroke Association’s mission: To reduce death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
“The American Heart/Stroke Association has come a long way in the fight against heart disease and stroke,” said Anthea L. Germano, communications committee chairwoman for the Association’s Blair County Division. “Thanks to Association-sponsored research, in the 1940s, cardiac catheterization was developed; in the 1950s, the first externally powered pacemaker was implanted and the heart-lung machine made its debut; in the 1960s, CPR and coronary artery bypass surgery were developed; in the 1970s balloon angioplasty became available; in the 1980s, aspirin became more prominent in the prevention of stroke. The 1990s ushered in the stent procedure for coronary arteries and clot-busting drugs for stroke, and in the new millennium, the first implantable artificial heart that will keep a patient alive until they receive a heart transplant has been introduced. Because of the public’s generosity, The American Heart/Stroke Association will continue to make strides to eliminate our nation’s Number One and Number Three killers: heart disease and stroke,” Germano said.
Among the most recent American Heart/Stroke Association initiatives are the Go Red for Women campaign and the alliance with President Bill Clinton against childhood obesity.
As more than 500,000 women die each year from cardiovascular diseases, Go Red for Women is a program to create awareness and education for women about the risk factors for and the prevention of heart disease and stroke and encourages women to take charge of their own health.
The joint goal of the Clinton Foundation-American Heart/Stroke Association alliance is to stop the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States by 2010 by fostering an environment that helps children pursue a healthy lifestyle. The Association has committed research and resources to reverse the increase of childhood obesity and raise healthier generations of Americans. Along with the Clinton Foundation, The American Heart/Stroke Association’s goal is to raise public awareness about the serious threat posed by this growing public health problem and take steps to improve the health of the nation’s children.
On September 24, Blair County will have an opportunity to confront heart disease and stroke. In the words of Landon’s mother Marsena Fickes, “Please join us in the fight against heart disease and stroke. If he could, Landon would give you one of his special hugs. I know that he’ll be watching us all from Heaven with his beautiful smile on September 24.”
For more information about the Blair County Heart Walk and the American Heart/Stroke Association, call the Blair County Division office at 949-3160 or visit the Association’s web site at www.americanheart.org.