Whether it comes about via stress, a sedentary, cholesterol-filled lifestyle, or just the unfortunate luck of Mother Nature’s draw, there is no disputing the fact that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among Iowans. Hoping to prioritize the care of the essential muscle, the American Heart Association will sponsor a Heart Walk on Clinton’s riverfront Saturday. The event begins at 9 a.m at the bandshell, and will continue until approximately noon.

Dave and Chris Schutte got involved with the American Heart Association following their daughter’s diagnosis of pulmonary stenosis. The cardiovascular disease, which causes a narrowing of arteries, forced Sydney Schutte to endure open heart surgery while still a small baby.

“The day she had her open heart surgery was literally the longest day of our lives,” Chris said.

The seven-hour procedure, conducted at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, was a marathon of doubt and worry for the Schuttes. Having already experienced a failed catheterization procedure, guarantees of success were nowhere to be found.

Luckily, the surgery went well, and Sydney is now a happy, healthy 9 year old, though she still must see a cardiologist regularly. But Chris said with time, even the trips to the cardiologist have become more infrequent.

“We’ve gone from three-month checkups, to six-month checkups,” Chris said. “Right now we’re at a year to 18 months.”

Sydney is a normal 9 year old, full of just the right amount of energy, according to her parents. She enjoys playing sports of all kinds, and loves a dip in the pool during hot summer days.

As of now, the only remnants of her brush with heart disease is a small scar on her chest, and two dimples above her bellybutton, something her parents have taken to calling her “smiley face.”

“Right now, she’s status quo,” Chris said.

The firsthand encounter with the potentially deadly heart disease inspired the Schuttes to participate in heart walks in Davenport and in Clinton. Team “Supporting Sydney” will walk in the upcoming event as they have in previous years, in an attempt to raise awareness and funds to fight all kinds of heart maladies.

“We’ve made such great advances,” Dave said. “We just want to continue and hopefully wipe out heart disease.”

Dave said his daughter has bravely endured the repeated doctor visits, and has become something of an inspiration to other afflicted children.

“She’s done really well with it,” Schutte said. “She’s like a little ambassador for other children. She does whatever she can to help other kids with (heart disease).”

So far this year, “Supporting Sydney” has raised $6,600. The team has raised a total of $28,850 since getting involved with the American Heart Association. A middle school dance at River Bend Middle School helps contribute to the cause, as does the sale of T-shirts.

Christine Taylor, with the American Heart Association, said the event was designed with families in mind. She encouraged participants to bring children and pets, and to join the walk even if not a member of a team.

The 5k route will begin and end at the bandshell, though a shortened, 1-mile route will be available to the less ambitious. Taylor also warns participants to dress according to weather.

“We’re going to be walking rain or shine,” Taylor said.

Donations can be brought to the walk or dropped off during pre-registration at Clinton National Bank. Registration for the walk begins at 8 a.m. Event organizers will provide refreshments.

Taylor encouraged participants to be safe during the walk, as the current heat wave is expected to linger into the weekend.

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