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Heart Walk has special meaning for Alexandria resident

Kori Walker suffers from a heart defect.

The American Heart Association's West Central Minnesota Start! Heart Walk will take place Thursday, June 25.

Registration is from 5 to 6 p.m. with a warm-up and welcome scheduled at 6 p.m. The walk begins at 6:15 p.m. and concludes around 8 p.m.

The walk - a choice of three or six miles - will begin at Voyager Elementary School on County Road 44 in Alexandria.

The three-mile walk is set up from Voyager to Shalom Lutheran Church and back. The six-mile loop is from the school to Big Ole Central Park and back. In case of inclement weather, a walk zone will be set up inside the school.

The goal this year is to raise $45,000 through the event. For more information, contact Natalie Carlberg at (763) 202-1733 or visit the website

Kori Walker of Alexandria, daughter of Michele Walker and Tim Walker, knows first-hand the importance of these fundraising events. Walker has had a ventricular septal defect since birth. She shares her story below:

Every day there are people all over the world who find out news no one ever wants to hear - that their heart isn't healthy.

May it be heart disease, valve abnormality, or any heart condition, none of them are ever good news.

In 1988 when I was born my parents, unfortunately, were faced with the fact that their daughter was one of the people to have a heart condition.

My name is Kori Walker and I have had a ventricular septal defect since the day I was born more than 20 years ago.

The heart is divided into four chambers. The ventricular septum is the barrier between the bottom two chambers - the ventricules. My ventricular septum has a small hole in it.

Some of my earliest memories include annual trips to the cardiologist for echocardiograms and testing. As a child, the doctors' expectations and hopes were that the hole would grow shut on its own.

Every year I'd make the trip with my very loving mother and grandmother, hoping to hear the doctor say, "The hole in your heart has closed all on its own."

To this day I have yet to hear a doctor tell me that, and there is no longer a chance for it to heal because my heart is no longer growing.

The hole in my heart causes a large amount of oxygen-rich blood from the left side of my heart to be pushed through the hole into the right side. The blood is then sent to the lungs to be oxygenated, when it already is. The blood is taking priority over blood from other parts of my body that need oxygen. This requires my heart to work much harder and faster than normal.

Because my heart has to work so much harder than it is intended to, I am at high risk for heart enlargement.

Two years ago my echocardiogram showed my heart enlarged. Last year it thankfully had decreased in size. If enlargement occurs again I have two options - open heart surgery or multiple medications for the rest of my life with no promise of a decrease in size.

Both my mom's and dad's sides of the family have heart problems. I am at very high risk for hypertension, heart attack and degenerative heart disease, which is when the cells of the heart slowly die off and no new ones are made.

The American Heart Association raises money to do research to help people like me.

Here in Alexandria you have the option to help in a very simple and easy way - by participating in the annual American Heart Association Walk.

Spend a few hours doing a heart healthy thing for yourself while raising money for research.

For more information, go online to

I hope to see you there!