ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Hundreds gathered at Fontaine Research Park on Sunday to walk for a healthier community. The 2019 Charlottesville Heart Walk drew crowds from across Virginia, all to support the American Heart Association of Charlottesville.

This is the 21st year of the Charlottesville Heart Walk. Over the years it's raised millions of dollars for research in the area. Organizers say more than 800 people gathered together to march for a good cause.

The event kicked off with a wellness festival to promote the kind of healthy lifestyle the American Heart Association (AHA) says can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

"More than 80% of all cases of heart disease and stroke are avoidable with a change of lifestyle," said Aimee Carter, director of the American Heart Association of Charlottesville. "So we just want to show people today how to move more, how to eat well, so they can help their heart."

The 3.1-mile walk started and ended at the entrance to UVA's Fontaine Research Park. The actual route was only one mile, but participants were encouraged to repeat the lap multiple times to reach the mileage.

Many of the walkers shared personal stories of their struggles with heart disease or the experiences of loved ones.

"I'm especially walking for my mom, who had a heart transplant two years ago," Jamie Borque said. "I want to be here to support her and for all my other family members and all my friends and how they've all been touched by heart disease."

"Every morning I wake up and think 'Isn't it wonderful to be alive?'" Cherry Borque, a heart transplant recipient said. "Thank you to my incredible donor and his family for this wonderful gift which I can never repay."

The event also featured a pet parade, showcasing the furry friends in costumes that strolled for the cause alongside their owners.

By the end of the festival, the walkers and sponsors had raised more than $75,000 for the American Heart Association of Charlottesville. The AHA says that money will be used to fund its programs in Charlottesville, and also research done at local institutions like UVA Health and Sentara.