Heart and Soul. If you ever took piano lessons as a child that song probably still echoes in your head. But Heart and Sole is our call to action to help put an end to cardiovascular disease – which ends the lives of men, women and children every 38 seconds. Cardiovascular disease defies stereotypes of who are “sick people.” It reaches into all our cities, our neighborhoods and all-too-often even our homes. Here at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), I am proud to be leading our partnership with the American Heart Association on the 2013 Metro Chicago Heart Walk. This event aims to raise $3,000,000 in donations. The donations will be used to fund valuable research, education and advocacy efforts of the American Heart Association. For years, BCBSIL employees have actively been leading teams of walkers who all raise money for the cause, many of them inspired by loved ones. To name a few: YaYa Perez, who walks for her 12 year old nephew with heart disease; Monica Silva, who walks for her grandmother; and Margie Toigo, who walks in memory of both her grandmother and uncle, who died of heart disease. This year, while teams of employees continue their own fundraising, we as a company are upping the ante – we are going bigger. We have stepped up as one of the major sponsors of this event. Why? Because we are committed to improving the health and lives of the people of Illinois. Because heart disease is preventable. Because the American Heart Association is working on finding ways to help heart and stroke patients manage their disease, while actively working to keep those of us who are heart-healthy stay that way. Since 1949, the American Heart Association has funded more than $3.4 BILLION in cardiovascular disease and stroke research. That funding has led to medical and surgical advances that are increasing the survival rate for heart patients, such as two-year-old Lily Kohl, who was born with one ventricle in her heart instead of two. Read more about Lily’s fight for survival here. Lily’s family heads up Team Lily. They will be taking part in the Downers Grove Heart Walk, one of the four locations that make up the Metro Chicago Heart Walk: The Downtown Walk is in Grant Park on Friday, September 27th 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The West/DuPage Heart Walk is in Downers Grove on Saturday, September 28th 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. The North/Northwest Heart Walk is at Harper College in Palatine on Sunday, September 29th 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. The South Cook Heart Walk is October 5th at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. Each site offers 1-mile and 3-mile routes which are handicapped accessible. Participants don’t have to just walk… strollers, bikes and rollerblades are also allowed. Even bring a four-legged friend. Leashed dogs are welcome at all events, except on the campus of Moraine Valley Community College. It costs nothing to be involved. There is no registration fee and you can walk for free and learn about heart health and receive medical screenings at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois tent. We at BCBSIL are actively involved in the Metro Chicago Heart Walk, but similar events are held across the country. Learn where you can join the fight. On the day of the walks – we may be left with aching “soles” but our “souls” should feel better than ever. And no, that is not my opinion as an M.D. but my opinion as an H.B. (aka human being).