EDINBURG, Texas – For the last seven years, South Texas Health System Heart has held its Heroes with Heart 5K to commemorate American Heart Month and encourage the community to focus on their cardiovascular health. 

This year the event was held “virtually,” due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100 people registered, raising $3,500 for seven local charities.

The charities were selected by STHS Heart’s seven 5K race Ambassadors. The ambassadors comprise first responders, law enforcement officers and healthcare heroes who have survived heart-related issues. They are:

  • Manon Gilbert, Registered Nurse and Quality Assurance Lead, MedCare EMS. Gilbert chose Rescue Life Charity;
  • Juan A. Gloria, Assistant Fire Chief, McAllen Fire Department. Gloria chose McAllen Guns & Hoses;
  • Daniel Gracia, Firefighter, Harlingen Fire Department. Gracia chose Harlingen Professional Firefighters Charity Foundation;
  • George Ibarra, Jr., Patrol Lieutenant, Alton Police Department. Ibarra chose Make-A-Wish Rio Grande Valley;
  • Luis Peña, Cath Lab Technician, South Texas Health System Heart. Peña chose Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley;
  • Stephen Ricci, State Trooper, Texas Department of Public Safety. Ricci chose South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association;
  • Frankie Joe Salinas, Chief, La Joya Volunteer Fire Department. Salinas chose La Joya Volunteer Fire Department.

South Texas Health System Heart held a special check presentation on Friday, April 23.

Brenda Ivory, CEO of South Texas Health System Heart.

“For this year’s Heroes with Heart 5K, it was important for us to give back to the local community, especially after the challenging year we’ve faced with the pandemic,” said Brenda Ivory, CEO of South Texas Health System Heart.

“Charities in the Rio Grande Valley have been hard hit, with many having to cancel their fundraising events and activities, and yet the demand for their assistance has increased. So, we wanted to provide them with much-needed funds to help them continue to support the people of the Valley.”

Tom Castañeda, system director of marketing and public relations for South Texas Health System, said it was important to hear the inspiring stories of the ambassadors because they have had their own heart issues.

“By sharing the inspiring stories of these brave men and women, who have continued to serve our community with distinction, even after their own personal battles with heart issues, we hope people in the community with heart disease, and those at risk for cardiac issues, will be motivated to take control of their lives with corrective action,” Castañeda said.

“After opening up about their own struggles, our ambassadors hope they’ll open up people’s eyes and encourage them to be heart aware, educate themselves on cardiovascular risk factors, and adopt heart-healthy habits and healthy lifestyle choices that will go a long way in preventing heart disease.”


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