By TESA GLASS
---- — MT. VERNON — The annual American Heart Association Heart Walk will be held this Saturday at the new Good Samaritan Regional Health Center."People should follow the Heart Walk Today signs and park on the east side of the grounds," said Beth Walker with the AHA. "The walk will start at the child care center, behind the hospital."In past years, the event has been held at Veterans Park, however, the hospital will be sponsoring the event, Walker said, and those participating will use the new health and fitness trail at the hospital for the walking area."We encourage participants to walk 2.25 miles," Walker said. "That is three laps around the walking trail. If someone wanted to do a shorter route, they could shorten it by the number of laps they complete. If they want to do more, they can continue."Walker said the Heart Walk is designed to be family friendly, with activities and registration beginning at 9 a.m. The walk will get underway at 9:30 a.m."Anyone can participate, it's a free event," Walker said. "There is no pre-registration required. We do encourage donations, and we have several teams that have pre-registered and been collecting donations for months, but that isn't necessary to come out and walk. We also like families with members of all ages, participating. A lot of times, families form a team or bring relatives to participate with them. That's great."Funds collected through donations go to the American Heart Association for its research and education program."One example of where the funds go is SIU Carbondale," Walker said. "It's one of the AHA research institutions in Illinois and receives funds. It has received over $451,000 from the American Heart Association in the last five years alone for research, and that's just one of the examples. We also fund CPR programs and programs that affect heart health in the local community."Anyone who would like additional information about the heart walk or the American Heart Association may contact Walker at 983-3234.