For the past 15 years Bob Hatem of Scarborough has missed the Southern Maine Heart Walk only once.

And that year he had a pretty good excuse.

“They were putting in my defibrillator,” said Hatem.

Hatem, 54, is the top fundraiser for this year’s walk, pulling in just under $7,000 for the cause. His wife, Gail, raised another $1,700. He said a heart attack at age 38 is a big motivator. The Hatems make the walk with their children Rachel, 21, and Robbie, 17.

“They join us every year. We used to pull them in a carriage. Now they will be pulling us along one of these days,”said Hatem.

The Hatems were joined by about 3,000 people who turned out Sunday for the American Heart Association in Maine’s 3½-mile walk around Back Cove in Portland to raise money to help end cardiovascular disease and stroke. They are the leading causes of death in Maine, says the American Heart Association in Maine, which has an office in Scarborough.

The event, which started at the AAA of Northern New England parking lot, included heart health educational displays and activities and a heart-healthy breakfast and lunch.

In its 23rd year, the walk is expected to raise more than $300,000 by the time all donations come in during the next 30 days, said Pauline Cormier, the walk’s director.

Cormier said every year more people take part.

“We just build every year,” she said.

Zen Duplisea, 11, of Gorham was walking with his grandmother, Lisa Duplisea, in memory of his great-grandmother, Scottie Mercier of Madison.

“She died from heart disease,” said Zen.

He and his grandmother were walking with her co-workers at the coding department at Mercy Hospital in Portland.

Lauren Roy and her daughter, Jayden, 4, of Kennebunk were walking with a team from Maine Medical Center in Portland.

“I had two grandfathers who died of heart disease in their 50s,” said Roy.

About 50 Subway restaurant managers and their families showed up to walk in yellow shirts. Subway was one of the food sponsors of the event.

“We thought it would be nice to participate as a group,” said Cathy LeBlanc of Saco, who owns 14 Subways in southern Maine.


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