Penguins defenseman Kris Letang
, who overcame a stroke earlier this year, co-chaired the 2014 Pittsburgh Heart Walk on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
He was joined by teammates Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis, whose support meant a lot to Letang. Overall, over 11,000 people showed up to participate in the walk – a turnout Letang was incredibly impressed with.
“It’s the first time for me doing this and I was pretty excited,” Letang said. “A lot of people showed up. To see the city and my teammates supporting me, it’s been amazing. It’s been pretty exciting walking in and seeing all the activity in the tents going on, so being here and having all that support for the cause is just pretty cool.”
The three-mile walk began at 2:00 p.m. and consisted of many different teams. Letang’s team, which was made up of him and Penguins employees, helped raise over $6,500 before the event even started. The entire event raised just under $1 million for life-saving research and education.
After he suffered the stroke on Jan. 29 at age 26, Letang returned to game action after a 10-week absence on April 9. While Letang, now 27, was able to get back to full health, it was still a very scary time for him and his family.
Crosby and Dupuis voiced their support for Letang and stated how great it was to see the Pittsburgh community's dedication to raising awareness of heart disease and strokes.
“I came here with my wife and my four kids to show my support for Kris,” Dupuis said. “He went through a tough time last year and still has to live with it every day. I guess he was expecting four or five hundred people, but there’s 11,000 people. It’s awesome that Kris wants to associate his name with a cause like that to raise awareness.”
“(Letang) thought maybe 500 people were going to show up, but it’s in the thousands,” Crosby added. “That tells you a lot about the people of Pittsburgh and how much they support great causes and want to raise awareness. It’s great that ‘Tanger’ can be a spokesperson as someone who’s gone though (a stroke)."
When Letang first learned of his diagnosis, he decided to make his condition public in order to raise awareness and encourage people to seek medical help if they experience some of the symptoms associated with a stroke – regardless of their age or general health. Taking the opportunity to raise even more awareness by co-chairing the event was a no-brainer.
“I think when it happened to me, it was such a big shock that I was thinking about other young people or people my age that actually have those symptoms,” he said. “I think it was really important for me to help out the cause and here today is one of them.”