ST. CLOUD -- Hundreds of people from around the state came to partake in the 2nd annual Central Minnesota heart Walk fundraising event this morning at Crossroads Center.

Barbara Ducharme is the Executive Director of the American Heart Association in Minnesota. She says the event is a fun and festive way to raise funds and awareness of heart disease.

"We're really preaching prevention as much as anything," Ducharme says. "And also celebrating the people who have been saved and who are surviving heart disease and stroke."

The event is one of several heart walks throughout the country which Ducharme says act as the biggest funding source for the American Heart Association.

"We are 100 percent funded by volunteer donations," Ducharme says. "So it is a fundraiser and we hope to raise about $65,000 today."

Ducharme estimates that over 600 people came out to Crossroads Center to participate in the walk.

"Really happy to have people out on this cold morning but they're warming up in the mall and getting some good exercise at the same time."

Most of the participants were involved with the walk for a personal reason, including Ducharme.

"Unfortunately, some of the traits that cause heart disease are hereditary and high blood pressure and high cholesterol seem to be two of them in my family," Ducharme says. "Thankfully I have not [had an immediate family member] who's died of heart disease, I certainly have relatives who have."

"Also, I've had the opportunity and privilege to meet a lot of survivors over the years and they have really become part of my extended family, so often I walk in these events for them."

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON