After 26 years with the American Heart Association, Dick Mattia ‘64 knows a thing or two about the Heart Run and Walk—and bringing the community together around a common cause.
When Mattia joined the Association in 1988, the Heart Run and Walk was a modest community event, then held at Notre Dame High School, and regularly drawing around 1,500 people. Through word of mouth and community sponsors, the event was attracting more participants each year. By 1997, it was clear that the walk had outgrown the Notre Dame space.
“We needed a bigger location,” says Mattia. “My first thought was Utica College.”
Less than a mile from Notre Dame, UC was already part of the walk’s route. And a facility like the Clark Athletic Center, Mattia knew, would be a perfect fit for the annual Expo, where local sponsors and healthcare providers offer free health screenings and activities the day before the walk.
Soon, discussions began to make the move, and Mattia remembers some apprehensions among those involved.
“UC administration wasn’t sure how students would feel about this event essentially taking over campus for a weekend during the winter,” he says. “It would require lots of cooperation with athletics and student activities.”
After months of planning, the first Heart Run and Walk at UC was a success, with more students than ever joining in the efforts. For Mattia, it was a relationship that went both ways.
“The event gained more excitement and energy from the students, and the students benefitted from knowing they’re part of the larger community,” he says.
Just three years later in 2000, America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk became the first Heart Walk in the country to raise $1 million. For several years, Utica’s walk was ranked No. 1 in Heart Walk fundraisers in the country.
“We never would have accomplished those milestones if we hadn’t moved to Utica College,” he says now.
Today, the Heart Run and Walk regularly draws nearly 10,000 participants and raises totals in the seven figures. In 2016, the event raised $1,011,787 for the American Heart Association.
And while Mattia retired as executive director of the Association in 2014, the annual walk is still a family tradition.
“I always get out there with my wife and my kids,” he says. “I’m proud to see how it’s become a tradition for so many students and families in the community.”
This year’s America's Greatest Heart Run & Walk will take place Friday and Saturday, March 3 - March 4, 2017 at Utica College. Learn more about the event here.
To join Team UC or to make a donation, click here.