VALDOSTA -- He walked three to four miles every morning regardless of the weather. He never smoked. And his daughter said he always maintained his weight.

"When you just looked at him, he was not a person you would think would have a heart attack," daughter Robyn Rainwater Woodruff said.

Yet former Mayor James H. Rainwater, 62, died of a heart attack one Sunday morning in October 2003, after returning from his morning walk.

Now, the American Heart Association's 2005 Lowndes County Heart Walk will honor Rainwater on Sept. 10.

"He gave back so much to our community," said Melanie Godwin, regional director for the American Heart Association.

The walk is to raise awareness of heart disease and reduce death and disability caused by heart disease and stroke.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, Godwin said.

Registration at Valdosta Middle School begins at 9:30 a.m. and the two-hour walk starts at 10 a.m.

There is no cost to register; however, Godwin said those who wish can raise money and bring it to the walk.

This year the American Heart Association has a $65,000 goal. The association was at $28,000 as of Tuesday.

Money raised goes toward research.

The walk will be kicked off by those who have survived heart disease or a stroke. They will be given a red cap to designate their triumph.

Patti Sutton, Quota Incorporated International team captain and stroke survivor, said she is not driven to walk because of her past experience.

"You get outside of yourself and think about all the other people, about how it might impact them if all the money is raised," Sutton said.

"What little part I can put in it together with someone else's little part can make a big impact."

A woman who recently gave Sutton a $30 donation told Sutton she felt as if it wasn't enough.

"I told her if everybody would put this little nothing together we could really make a difference," Sutton said.

The walk is also an incentive for people to begin a healthy lifestyle.

"It is always great to support the American Heart Association because heart diseases touches one out of every two Americans," Godwin said, adding that exercise, food, music and heart education were other reasons to come out and walk.

Subway and Coke will be available along with face painting, a bounce house, blood pressure checks and musical entertainment.

A team from Moody Air Force Base, CURVES, the Rainwater family and the Valdosta Police Department will be walking.

Sponsors include Quota Incorporated International, Dasher Heart Center at South Georgia Medical Center, The Langdale Company, CuraCare, Heart Surgery Center at SGMC, The Loop Pizza Grill, SAFT, the Rainwater family, Georgia Power Company, Guardian Bank, Mobile Tronics, NationsLink Communication and RTG Media.

Woodruff said the walk being in honor of her father was overwhelming.

"He was taken away from us due to a massive heart attack," Woodruff said. "He loved the City of Valdosta. This was a way the local heart association could use his name."

For information or to get a walker's package, call 247-1550 or register online at www.lowndescountyheartwalk.kintera.org



To contact Brianne Sweetland, call (229) 244-3400, ext. 245.

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