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Zumba fundraising event gets hearts pumping
Proceeds benefit American Heart Association
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Danielle Stewart, left, and Michelle Miller look at Joelma Soares-Sambdman’s wares Saturday afternoon at the fourth annual Party Hearty Zumba fundraiser for the American Heart Association at the J.A. Walters Family YMCA in Gainesville. - photo by NAT GURLEY

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For more information on the fourth annual Party Hearty Zumba Fundraiser event, visit

Since she was a 14-year-old sophomore at Lakeview Academy, Vidya Medepalli had a vision of helping raise awareness and funds for people suffering from heart ailments.

To achieve this goal, Medepalli conducted a Zumba fundraiser, not knowing if it would succeed in raising money.

Now 18, Medepalli is a freshmen at Georgia Regents University in Augusta. Saturday, she held the fourth annual Party Hearty Zumba Fundraiser event at the J.A. Walters Family YMCA in Gainesville.

Medepalli, a certified Zumba instructor, said 165 people attended the event, raising $852 in donations for the American Heart Association.

“I started this fundraiser in 2010. It came about because heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death,” said Medepalli. “My mom (Lalitha) is a cardiologist and I had been exposed to a lot of patients who have heart problems and I wanted to just do something about it.”

Zumba is a dance fitness program that incorporates Latin American dance moves with aerobic exercises.

Some 15 Zumba instructors helped lead the event, taking turns leading those in attendance through different dances.

“We had a lot of people who came. It seemed to be a success,” Medapalli said. “Knowing that so many people die each year of heart disease ... a lot of it is due to inactivity. So people aren’t doing anything. They are just going about their daily lives, but they aren’t taking any actions or steps to prevent heart disease. So I thought this would be a good incentive for them to start doing something like Zumba.”

Jessica Williams has been attending Zumba classes for six months. Saturday’s event was a blend of something she enjoys with a good cause.

“I wouldn’t be doing anything else (on a Saturday), honestly,” Williams said. “I wish Zumba was every Saturday. It’s the best. Plus, this is for a great cause, the American Heart Association.

“It’s amazing how all of these people came together and pitched in nothing but $5. It all adds up. Every little bit adds up. It’s amazing to see how many people would donate to such a great cause.”

Medepalli said it’s important for people to take action to improve their health.

“It makes me feel really great to know that people are doing something with their lives,” she said. “They are more aware of these things that are happening and these diseases that are in our world, and because of that, they are inspired to go out and make the best of it.”