Video Courtesy of the Minnesota Twins

IMG_7956MINNEAPOLIS – For the last six years, Beth True of Woodbury, Minnesota, walked in the American Heart Association’s Twin Cities Heart Walk. When it was time to sign up this year, she gave it more thought.

She knew that Rod Carew – one of the all-time greats for her beloved Minnesota Twins and a co-star in one of her favorite childhood memories – had recently suffered a heart attack. She knew he’d begun working with the American Heart Association and that he would be involved with this year’s event.

So True wanted to do more than just participate. For the first time, she volunteered to be a team captain.

Rod and Beth True

Carew and Beth True

True’s squad within the U.S. Bank team raised more than $2,000 and her enthusiasm earned her an invitation to visit with Carew before Saturday’s walk at Target Field. She wore a No. 29 Carew jersey and brought what she described as one of her family’s most treasured possessions: a picture from 1970 featuring herself, two siblings and two other kids, as well as Carew and fellow Twins star Tony Oliva.

Carew signed it for True and she presented him with a framed copy. While the Baseball Hall of Famer appreciated the gift, what he really enjoyed was hearing her story and sensing joy over getting to meet him again.

“This is just such an honor,” she gushed.True family treasure

Despite a cold, breezy morning – even by Twin Cities standards for mid-May – about 25,000 people took part in the Heart Walk, filling most of the stadium’s lower bowl. Organizers were expecting their best-ever fundraising effort, with hopes high for cracking the $3 million mark.

If so, a big assist goes to Carew and his Heart of 29 campaign.

“Having Rod involved has given so much publicity to the Heart Walk and been a huge inspiration for us,” said Jessie Higgins, whose team, Wellington Management, shattered its fundraising record by hauling in $27,000. “The attention surrounding Heart of 29 made it an easier sell.”


Jessie Higgins, center, with her dad, John, a stroke survivor, and Carew

Carew started the campaign effort to boost awareness and prevention of the No. 1 killer of Americans after his ordeal last fall. In addition to the heart attack, he went into cardiac arrest and heart failure. His life was saved by doctors implanting a machine called an LVAD, or left ventricular assist device, to keep blood pumping through his body. He’s hoping to get a transplant later this year.

The Twins hosted the Heart of 29 kickoff event in January and have continued supporting it. They’ve begun wearing red jerseys for all Friday home games in Carew’s honor and for the first game in their new shirts they also sported patches with the Heart of 29 logo.

During the opening ceremony for Saturday’s event, a video of Carew’s journey was shown on the video boards. Then he spoke to the crowd, thanking them for participating and touching on the reasons he’s so passionate to support this cause.

IMG_7916“We have so many people that we lose because they don’t take care of their hearts, they don’t get checked, they don’t eat right,” he said. “We have to tell these people – we have to challenge them – to do that. Because I thought I was healthy. Then all of a sudden, I got smacked right upside the head. …

“The first words that came out of my mouth after my operation was to my wife,” he continued. “I said, `Honey, I’ve got something else that He wants me to do. My friend upstairs has given me a second chance and I’m going to do as much as I can to help the American Heart Association to get more people involved, to help us raise funds.’ And that’s why we’re all here today.”

Carew then went out Gate 29 to greet walkers as they finished their route. Folks were surprised and excited to see him. People of all ages gathered to shake his hand and-or take a picture with him. Many offered their thanks and their wishes for his continued recovery. Some shared their own heart stories, in turn getting his wishes for their recovery.

The exchanges were plentiful but brief, the opposite of the meet-and-greet, when Carew was able to spend a little more time getting to know a smaller group of people.


Lea Hargette meets Carew

The first was Lea Hargette, president and CEO of the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce. As they greeted, she said, “I hope my grandfather knows I’m touching your hand.”

Hargette grew up watching baseball games with her grandfather, and Carew and Oliva were his favorites. She became involved with AHA through a Diversity @ Heart initiative – and because she’s a survivor, having endured an operation to repair her mitral valve.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” she said. “My message is that people need to pay attention to their body. Don’t be afraid. Listen to your body and take action.”

Next up was another survivor, 38-year-old Curt Wagner.


Curt Wagner, squatting with flannel hat, and his parents, chat with Carew

Wagner was 32 when he learned he was born with an aortic valve issue and underwent open-heart surgery to fix it. He’s participated in the Heart Walk ever since. He’s ramped up his involvement in recent years, sharing his story at businesses to help inspire and motivate their fundraising teams.

“It’s just my way of saying, hey, you don’t have to be old to have a heart issue,” Wagner said.

Speaking of age, the first thing Wagner told Carew was that he was too young to remember seeing him win seven batting titles for the Twins from 1967-78. That’s why he brought along his parents, who have fond memories of those days.

However, Wagner did have his own message to share with Carew.

“I wanted to just express my gratitude for him sharing his story and promoting heart health,” Wagner said. “As much as I like to give back, I know he’s able to connect with so many more people – like through his commercials during Twins games. What he’s doing for awareness of the Heart Association, it’s amazing.”

Top video courtesy of Minnesota Twins.

Below video by event co-emcee Kelcey Carlson, as posted to Minneapolis’ Fox 9 Facebook page: