CROWN POINT | Logan Castleton, 9, clapped, smiled and worked the packed crowd as well as the keyboard to the Kool & the Gang hit "Celebration."
Logan, who has a congenital heart defect, served as Heart Victor for the Northwest Indiana Heart Walk at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The walk was sponsored by the American Heart Association.
"He's the face of the American Heart Association event in Northwest Indiana and is the youngest to serve as Heart Victor. He's been involved since he was less than a year old," said Brandi Collins, corporate events director for the American Heart Association.
More than 1,000 participants took part in the event Saturday, which raised $500,000 for research, education and awareness programs, Collins said.
Families, friends and work-related teams walked 1, 2 and 3-mile routes. Food, games, giveaways and entertainment were also included.
Many participants, including Dianna Winborn, of Merrillville, released red balloons in memory of loved ones who have died from heart disease.
"I've been a supporter for 12 years. It's my passion," Winborn said.
Dale Heinz, senior division manager for ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, served as this year's executive heart walk chairman.
Heinz said he's committed to increasing awareness of cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans.
"If it wasn't for the American Heart Association, he (Logan) wouldn't be here with us. He underwent three surgeries before he turned 3. He's a pretty incredible young man," Heinz said.
Logan, a fourth-grader at Cooks Corners Elementary School in Valparaiso, began taking part in the heart walks since he was so small that his family pulled him in a red wagon, dad Richard Castleton said.
"We participate every year in the heart walks. It's a big event for us," Castleton said.
Logan's mom, Jen, as well as his three younger siblings and several family members also took part.
Logan, who wears a pacemaker, eventually will need to have a heart transplant, his dad said.
In the meantime, Logan enjoys being a big brother to his younger siblings and playing the piano, especially rock music, Castleton said.
Logan and his family also will be taking part in another heart walk Sept. 28 at Coffee Creek Center in Chesterton.
"It's a life-saving mission," Castleton said.