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Column for 3.7.12
This past weekend I celebrated a significant anniversary. Truth be told, I hadn’t realized the relationship had been going on for so long. Not all my relationships have been as successful as this one.
The realization that I had been involved in this relationship for 30 years came to me at exactly 7:55 p.m. on Friday. I know the time because Al Bangs, who was directing the live television show of WUTR’s coverage of the Health & Fitness Expo at America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk, said through the device in my ear, “Get ready. Five minutes, everybody.”
Along with WUTR’s Joe Parker, who anchors the station’s Eyewitness News, and Jeff Matthews, chief meteorologist, I was hosting the show. While sitting on the stage in the gymnasium at Utica College, I should have been thinking about what I was going to say at 8 o’clock. Instead I was thinking about years past.
My first time at this Heart Association event was 30 years ago. A few thousand dollars was raised by a few runners and by WIBX Heart Radiothon listeners. Back then it was called the Heart Run.
The Radiothon is in its 41st year. What started as the Heart Run is in its 38th year. I forget what year the walk was added, but that’s when the event really took off.
There are now individuals who raise more money on their own than was raised by the entire event back in those early years. Roger Smith of Constableville, for example, a member of Boonville’s Team Charlie, raised $4,475. I can remember when all the runners combined brought in less than that.
Other thoughts I had while sitting on the stage in the gymnasium at Utica College on Friday night, a couple of minutes before 8 o’clock, were of two men.
Adhering to my believe that you should never forget who brought you to the dance, I was thinking about Dan Benzo, the former executive director of the local chapter of the American Heart Association. He was with the event when it was just the Heart Run and saw it evolve into America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk. Dan died last year. Not only did he help engineer an event that would raise more than $1 million annually, he made it fun.
The other man I was thinking about as I sat there on the stage was WIBX’s Bill Heiderich. He also died last year. Like Dan, Bill was involved from the very beginning. Actually, Bill was involved before the beginning because he helped organize the WIBX Heart Radiothon, out of which came the Heart Run.
Bill and Dan had at least two things in common. Each worked hard in the fight against heart disease and stroke. And the second thing is that in all the years I knew them I never saw either of them upset, mad or in a bad mood.
So, another successful year for America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk. That’s the way it has gone every year, at least for the 30 years that I know about.