Event on St. Croix encourages healthy choices, raises heart disease awareness

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ST. CROIX - This weekend will mark 10 years since Gerard Luz James III died of heart complications at the age of 23, and on Saturday his family and friends will celebrate his life with a fun day and informative event for the community.

Jenee James, who remembers her younger brother as full of life and a lover of sports, said the event is sponsored by Luzzy's Heart Foundation which was started in the young man's memory shortly after his passing with an aim of building awareness of heart disease among children and young adults across the territory.

She said she could not think of a more natural way to spend the time on the anniversary of his passing than doing so by being active.

"Luzzy loved life and was very active, so I thought it would be great for us to spread the spirit that he believed in by getting the community and specifically the children involved and active," she said.

The lobby at the V.I. Cardiac Center was named in "Luzzy's" honor in 2010 and at that time, Suzie James, Luzzy's mother, said her son's death was a devastating blow to the entire circle of friends and family because they never saw it coming.

He died in July 2004, after suffering a massive heart attack in his sleep as a result of an enlarged heart.

Suzie James said Luzzy, who was a talented volleyball player and high-spirited young man, never had any signs of heart trouble but died two days before he was scheduled to go for a back surgery. She said in hindsight, research has shown that back pains are associated complications of heart diseases.

Because Luzzy was young, an athlete and appeared to be in exceptional health, he never went for any of testing or evaluations that could have detected his fatal heart condition, Suzie James said.

She said she encourages the community to come out to the event on Saturday, keep their children active and pay attention to their health.

The fun day will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at D.C. Canegata Recreational Center and will include music, Zumba, jump rope, basketball games, children's games, healthy snacks and lots of prizes and giveaways.

"We wanted this to be high-energy with lots of things to do and there will be something for everyone," Jenee James said. Old-time favorite games such as egg-and-spoon races, sack races, an obstacle course and aerobics will keep the youths active and get their hearts pumping for the day, she said.

The activities for the day will be in the spirit of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, dedicated to putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years, Jenee James said. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices.

"We want to get them up from the video games and television for a minute and teach them how to be better and live healthier," she said, adding that the healthy snacks that will be provided will teach children and their parents that snacking does not always have to include sugar and fats.

Jenee James said music for the day will be provided by DJ Swain and there will be a few speakers and pamphlets sharing information about heart disease, healthy living and living smart.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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