By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It may be the slowest 5K on Philadelphia’s race calendar, but the annual Strides for Stroke is often an important milestone for stroke survivors and their families. The 19th edition of the event was held Sunday morning, near the Art Museum.

The event attracts many groups honoring survivors, and survivors themselves. Melva Adams half-walked, half-rode a wheelchair with a group of survivors from Moss Rehab. Crossing the finish line at 1 hour, 16 minutes on the race clock hardly put Adams in the winners circle for the 5K event, but she was on her own two feet and that was a major victory.

“It felt good to be crossing the line and walking that distance after being restricted to a wheelchair for five years,” Adams said.

Adams is a stroke survivor and the race, Strides for Stroke, was her first ever.

Gary Moran had a stroke a little more than a year ago, but he finished the race — even if in a wheelchair — and he had a contingent of nearly 40 supporters around him, led by his daughter Tara.

“He’s making strides every day, coming along with speech,” she said. “We’re all happy and pulling for him.”

Gary Moran was accompanied by nearly 40 supporters. (credit: Pat Loeb)

Gary Moran was accompanied by nearly 40 supporters. (credit: Pat Loeb)

This is the 19th year for the event, and the best ever, according to founder Toby Mazer.

We’re trying to increase awareness,” Mazer said, “and change the way stroke is viewed and treated in the Delaware Valley.”

Mazer notes strokes are the number one cause of adult disabilities and they can strike any time, as David Bertagnoli learned when he had a stroke at age 26. Now 32, Bertagnoli has made it his mission to raise money and awareness and finds running a tool for both.

I actually didn’t start running until after my stroke,” Bertagnoli said, “and I think that’s my calling in life.”

Few could keep up with Bertagnoli. He completed the race in 22 minutes and finished 21st overall.

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