Published April 1, 2022
When Conner Riley graduated from Ottumwa High School in 2018, he had no idea he would be coming back to his hometown in 2022 to raise awareness for heart health. Now a senior at Drake University with plans to go to the University of Iowa’s pharmacy school, one class changed the way he looks at health care and prevention.
“In my junior year of college, I was in a class about health disparities, and we were talking about certain locations and demographics,” Conner explained. “So I looked at Ottumwa and learned it had a major disparity for heart health. I saw that and wanted to do something to help my hometown.”
That something became an opportunity when an internship with the Iowa Heart Center Foundation opened up. Conner has always been a runner - he ran in high school and college - so he has participated in numerous 5Ks over the years, and he saw what a good tool they are for raising awareness of health concerns.
Put the concern for Wapello County’s heart health together with a love of running, and the Ottumwa Has Heart 5K was born. On Saturday, April 23, 5K walkers and runners will leave from the Quincy Place Mall back parking lot at 9 a.m. and follow the course through Greater Ottumwa Park. Registration is now open at https://www.iowaheartfoundation.org/events/upcoming-events/ Proceeds from the event will support heart health initiatives in Wapello County. The Iowa Heart Center Foundation will be collaborating with local partners and organizations to improve heart health outcomes in the area.
“We want people to realize that we as a community can help combat heart disease, not only in southeast Iowa, but Iowa as a whole,” Conner said. “A lot of health issues can be prevented when we have the right information, the right education and the right awareness in our community. It’s nothing we have to fight alone. We can be a lot stronger when we come together, to help prevent this disease.”
There are many ways to get involved in this inaugural event: walking or running in the 5K, volunteering to help and purchasing a heart sign to line the course in memory of lost loved ones or in honor of someone who is fighting heart problems now.
“It gives recognition support to those who have faced and are facing heart disease,” Conner said.
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