The Greater Orlando Heart Walk at UCF brought more than 20,000 participants and raised nearly $ 1 million this year — all in pursuit of raising awareness for heart disease.

The American Heart Association, the largest voluntary health organization working to prevent and treat heart disease, hosted the walk at Memory Mall on UCF's main campus Saturday at 7 a.m.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases are the nation's No. 1 and No. 4 top killers, and claim more than 810,000 American lives every year.

Leida Santos, 47, was one of the thousands of non-UCF-related participants. She honored two victims of heart attacks with her group from Florida Hospital's General Medical Education department.

"My friend's father and my uncle both passed away from heart attacks," Santos said. "We're walking for them today."

But while many walked to honor victims, many also walked to raise awareness.

Sierra Maloney, a sophomore health sciences major at UCF who walked with UCF's Caribbean Student Association, hopes the event will attract more student involvement.

"Because it's taking place right on campus, students can easily see it happening and will ask about it, and they might join next time," she said.

The 3.1-mile route to promote healthier living wrapped around campus, starting on the right side of the CFE Arena and ending at Memory Mall.

"The location of this walk is really great," Santos said. "It's size has the ability to have so many people in one place for one cause."

Hundreds of volunteers helped prepare for the Heart Walk, including Ariadna Santos, education and literacy director at Volunteer UCF.

"An event this large could not be done without volunteers," Ariadna said. "Volunteers are not only essential for the event to run smoothly, but they also serve as a support system for those that are participating in the event."

The next Heart Walk of Orlando will take place in Kissimmee on Sept. 20 at 8 a.m. For more information, visit

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