Increasing medical strides

DOWNTOWN — More than 1,250 runners and walkers crossed the finish line on Brand Boulevard on Sunday morning after they whisked through three miles of city streets in the Glendale Adventist Medical Center’s second annual Downtown Dash.

Crowds of onlookers cheered them on as they dashed to the finish line, which Los Angeles resident Leonel Avalas, 39, crossed first at 15 minutes and 33 seconds.

Avalas often participates in run/walk events because running is his sport of choice. He generally wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every day to run before he goes to his construction job.

Avalas runs 60 miles every week in order to stay healthy and active, but mostly because he said he loves it.

“It’s my passion,” he said.

Two other runners from Avalas’ Los Feliz group, A Runner’s Circle, came in second with 16 minutes and 18 seconds and third with 16 minutes and 42 seconds.

But Sunday’s morning run/walk drew many families to participate in the event, of which all proceeds benefit the medical center’s Stroke Services. The Stroke Center was certified last year as the first facility to provide stroke services in the San Fernando Valley.

“I am really humbled and delighted at the same time of the number of people who came in the early frosty morning and on a Sunday for this event,” said Gautam Kulkarni, director of neuroscience services.

About 30 stroke survivors volunteered to help in the event and participated in the run/walk, event co-chairwoman Mari Abrams said.

The Dash started in front of the Alex Theatre, went north on Brand Boulevard, looped around on the same street and went south to the Americana at Brand. But before the participants took off, Trainer Elaine Miller of All About You Bootcamp warmed them up and had them run in place and move their arms around.

Of the more than 1,250 who participated in the run/walk, 920 had pre-registered for the event, but others signed up Sunday morning, Abrams said.

“It’s a huge jump in registration,” she said.

Early registration increased from last year’s run/walk in which 450 signed up before the event, Abrams said.

Glendale resident Kelly Salloua and her 3-year-old daughter, Dalia Lundquist, walked through downtown Glendale. But she walked with her daughter along the route Saturday to make sure her daughter was able to do the walk. Salloua participated in the event because it benefited a cause that will help stroke victims, she said.

Sunday’s run/walk was the first one for Glendale resident Leanna Fries.

She is preparing to run in a marathon in Pasadena and trained for two months for the Dash and marathon, she said.

But while the event will help her to be better prepared for the marathon, Fries said it brings to light the importance of providing stroke care for patients who need it.

“It’s good opportunity to catch up with the community and support a good cause,” she said.

Glendale resident Celeste Olavarria walked in the event with a group of nursing students from Allied Medical and Health Services.

“It means a lot to participate in this event because my family has a history of strokes, M.I. [myocardial infarction, also knowns as a heart attack] and hypertension,” she said.

Her 57-year-old brother died of a massive myocardial infarction, which she attributed to a diet of fatty foods.

Since her brother’s death, she has devoted herself to educating people about eating healthy food for their heart, Olavarria said.

 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at

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