For the heart of it

photo provided The Walk with Wanda Team at the end of the Start Heart Walk in Philadelphia.

In Oct. 1995, just before Wanda Valenteen's 30th birthday, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

In 2009, Valenteen went backwards in her battle with heart disease. Her doctor told her to go home and walk for 20 minutes a day, and she did so for six months.

Her original test of oxygen reserves in her muscles was at 14.5 (normal is 30), six months later, in October of 2009, after walking 20 minutes each day, she tested at 18.6 - a 25 percent improvement.

That's when she heard about the Start Heart Walk at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on Nov. 14. University of Pennsylvania Hospital was involved, and after they had helped her so much, she felt she had to give back.

It was also the day before her birthday, so she knew she had to do it.

Originally it was just going to be Valenteen and her family, but she started to get the word out about the walk.

By the time November rolled around, the Walk with Wanda team for the Start Heart Walk had 30 members.

Valenteen's mission is to get the word out that you have to get moving! The Start Heart Walk philosophy is for every one hour of exercise, you gain two hours of life.

In the 7,500 walkers that attended the Start Heart Walk in Philadelphia, Valenteen's team was the only one wearing pink shirts that all said "Walk with Wanda" on the back. Valenteen said, through the crowd, even as she was falling behind everyone else, she could still spot her team and their pink shirts.

When she was three-quarters of the way through the walk tired, but insistent on finishing, she looked up and didn't see any of the pink shirts in the crowd. Then, she heard her team started cheering her name as they waited on the side of the course for her. As Valenteen approached, he team gathered around her and they all finished the walk together as a team.

"I walked over the finish line hand-in-hand with my daughter," she said.

Valenteen raised over $1,000 herself; the team, total, raised $2,370, all of which goes to the American Heart Association.

"It's about awareness and bringing awareness to getting moving," Valenteen said.

Recently, Valenteen has joined Snap Fitness in Phoenixville and works out five to six times a week. She chose Snap Fitness because it's open 24/7 so there are "no excuses," she said.

Valenteen is looking to put another team together for the 2010 Start Heart Walk. Anyone interested in Walking with Wanda, or wants to know more about the Start Heart Walk or fundraising opportunities should e-mail her at

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