South Texas Health System hosted a special ceremony on Saturday, June 12, to announce the winners of this year’s Steps for Stroke challenge in three categories: Community, Staff and First Responders.

The system’s first-ever step challenge took place the week of May 24 – 30. Participants were to log at least 50,000 steps during the 7-day period. The event was held to educate the community on the risks and signs of stroke, as well as offer prevention advice during Stroke Awareness Month in May.

“Physical inactivity is one of the key risk factors for stroke; the less you move, the more likely you are to have a stroke. Research shows that moderate to highly active men and women have a 20- to 30-percent less chance of stroke,” says Shenna Barcena, System Director of Neuroscience, South Texas Health System. “While we’ve held special 5k runs during Stroke Awareness Month in the past, and this year we wanted to stress the importance of being active every day. This weeklong step challenge felt like the perfect way to get people moving by having them track their steps daily and getting them to see the value of taking those extra steps throughout their day.”

To help lead the charge, South Texas Health System recruited three stroke survivors to serve as Steps for Stroke challenge ambassadors, who shared their personal stories of their stroke events and recovery through in-depth video profiles. They are former executive Dora Brown of McAllen, high school student Aristeo Cantu of Pharr, and homemaker Yezenia Ayala of Mission.

“My stroke could have possibly been prevented had I not skipped doctor’s appointments or neglected to get lab work and testing done that had been recommended by my physician because I was too busy,” confesses Dora Brown. “I learned my lesson; I don’t miss a single appointment now. And, I encourage everyone to do the same. If you don’t keep up with your doctor’s appointments and follow their advice, no one is to blame for any health issues you may face but yourself.”

In all, nearly 230 people took part in the Steps for Stroke challenge, logging a combined 5 million-plus steps during the week. That total equates to approximately 2,500 miles, the equivalent of walking from McAllen to the Panama Canal.

This year’s Steps for Stroke first, second and third place winners in each category received a trophy for their efforts. The winners are:

Community Category:

Douglas Colburn, McAllen, 177,070 steps

Pearl Camacho, San Antonio, 149,546 steps

Angela Murphy, La Feria, 129,861 steps

Staff Category:

Chase Wright, McAllen, 139,779 steps

Maribel Barrueta, McAllen, 123,799 steps

Tom Castaneda, Mission, 120,313 Steps

First Responders Category:

Joel Morales, McAllen, 94,150 steps

Maureen Pamintuan, McAllen, 78,538 steps

Lt. George Ibarra, Alton, 61,335 steps

In addition to revealing this year’s top steppers, South Texas Health System also presented a check with the proceeds of the challenge, in the amount of $6,530.21, to the Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association. The money will be used by the organization to provide stroke education within the local community.

“If you have diabetes, your chances of having a stroke are one-and-a-half times greater than those who don’t. So it’s important to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol in check through healthy eating, physical activity and, if needed, medicine,” says Diana Ramirez, Chief Executive Officer, Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association.

“Thank you to South Texas Health System for this generous donation, which will be used to further educate the community on stroke risks, symptoms and prevention. Together we can conquer the effects of diabetes of diabetes, heart disease and stroke in the Rio Grande Valley.”

With the success of this year’s Steps for Strokes challenge, South Texas Health System will be making it an annual event.