GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- The Grand Rapids Heart Walk is happening this weekend and organizers hope to raise money to fight heart disease.
13-year old Devon Saliers will be participating in the walk this year despite being released from the hospital less than a month ago. Saliers received a new heart in August and is grateful to be alive and able to help with the event.
"I'd just like to help the American Heart Association raise money for all the kids that have a heart defect and strokes and to find research to help other kids," he said.
Devon was born with a rare congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. He had his first surgery when he was just 5 days old, a second 6 months later and another when he was 1 1/2 years-old.
Devon lived a pretty normal life until December when his family learned he needed a new heart. After a long wait and battle to stay alive he got the heart transplant this summer. His family says the American Heart Association has provided them with support and resources through it all.
"Your first reaction is to look at the Internet what other stories are out there and there weren't positive ones. You automatically think that is going to be your situation," said Brittney Thurston, Devon's mom. "It is great that we can go to other resources like the American Heart Association because that gives us that ray of hope."
The family has participated in the Walk ever since Devon was born. Jonathan Saliers, Devon's dad, says it is important to the family to help raise awareness and support as well as money.
"When I first started doing the heart walk the biggest reason was that they might fund some research that would help Devon to live a normal life. In addition to that they do awareness initiatives, wellness programs, it is incredible the amount of stuff they do," he said.
Devon Saliers has not missed a Heart Walk in the 13 years he's been alive. Despite moving slowly these days, he is determined to keep his perfect record.
"I want to see if we can help other kids with this defect because everybody deserves a second chance at life," said Devon.
The Heart Walk is one of the largest fund-raisers for the American Heart Association. It will take place Saturday, October 12th at Ah-Nab-Awen Park in downtown Grand Rapids. Gates Open at 8:30 a.m. The walk begins at 9:20 a.m. and ends around 11:00 tomorrow morning.
Those interested in more information or registering can do so at GrandRapidsHeartWalk.org.