Infectious laughter erupted as participants gathered at 12th Street for a group photo at the beginning of a Healthy Hearts 3K/5K walk along the Seaside Prom July 14. Camaraderie was obvious from the teasing and bragging.
Rebecca Kimmel said she had difficulty getting into the swimming pool before starting the Healthy Hearts program. After 12 weeks, she is now swimming one hour three times a week. Other participants reported similar success.
Healthy Hearts started as a collaboration between Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization’s Community Advisory Committee, Providence Seaside Hospital and Seaside Park and Recreation District to provide Oregon Health Plan members ways to reduce risk factors associated with heart disease. It provides walking opportunities, recreation passes and one-on-one coaching to lose weight, move more and eat healthier over 12 weeks.
“We thought a 3K/5K walk would be a way to celebrate the spring cohort,” said Sarah Brown, CAC member and administrator of Healthy Hearts.
“Healthy Hearts is a program to connect people with community resources and support their overall health and wellness over time. We don’t expect to create wellness in 12 weeks, but we hope to provide an avenue to grow and access resources down the road.”
On finishing the walk, Rebecca said she exceeded her own expectations, walking farther than the 3K return marker.
“I told myself if I can make it to the turnaround, maybe I can make it to the next point. I made it to 0.75. That’s going to be a mile and a half! That’s huge, huge for me.”
Rebecca said she almost lost her foot to disease. Through Healthy Hearts, she received a recreation pass that allows her to use Sunset Pool. When she started, she had to use a cane to get in the pool. Through the aerobics class, she learned how to safely exercise her foot. “And now I have enough strength to do this,” she said.
“You don’t know what it means when they’re going to take your foot, and you’re not able to get up. And now, I’m going to walk a mile and a half. That’s unreal. Oh, god it’s just like a miracle.”
At the finish line, proud participants returned, with stories of their own. Denise Adams said summer will be her third term of Healthy Hearts. It’s the longest she has stuck to any program in years. She walks about 10 miles a week, and logged 50 miles the week before.
“I am out here helping others,” she said.
Meeting new friends, forming bonds through Facebook posts, sharing recipes, walking together, taking classes has been transformative for many.
“It’s a confidence builder,” said Michelle Franklin. “As the mother of boys and running two households, I was always inside. Then I got to meet these women at Healthy Hearts, and it gave me hope. It’s a lifestyle change. That’s what it is.”
“All these women’s recovery stories are so awesome,” said Rebecca. “Healthy Hearts is a lifeline. I’m doing this and I’m not going to give up.”
Program coach Alix Richardson cheers the participants as they reach the finish line. With a degree in public health and health education, she says Healthy Hearts is a perfect fit for her skills and passion for being active.
She encourages people to go through the program more than once. “It’s good for participants to hear everything twice, to fully comprehend mindful eating and yoga classes,” she said.
“I am very thankful to be doing this. I can give people resources, but I like to help in other ways, offer encouragement,” Alix said.
“Oh, that Alix,” Rebecca said, “what a jewel.”
Healthy Hearts is a program for Columbia Pacific CCO members who are on the Oregon Health Plan. Established in September 2012, Columbia Pacific CCO coordinates health services for more than 25,000 Oregon Health Plan members in Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties; colpachealth.org. or email firstname.lastname@example.org.