JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

"Sometimes people say wow you've stayed working that long
why," says Lane Hughes.

Lane Hughes says the explanation is simple. It's because of the names and faces of the people touched by heart disease, the survivors and the ones who didn't make it.

"Nicholas had a heart defect. Unfortunately we hadn't developed all the technology that we have now.  It means we still have work to do," says Hughes.

He started his career 29 years ago with the American Heart Association.  Hughes remembers when the local Heart Walk was much smaller.

"To have been in Jacksonville when the walk just started and you had fewer than 1000 people coming out and this year we're anticipating more than 18,000 and to have seen that growth," says Hughes.

Thousands of people who have a connection to the number one killer of both men and women.

"All those that are wearing a white cap or a red cap, all the people that I met that Saturday and it's made a difference to them.  It's not just statistics for many of them there is a story like Joe, there is a story like Hannah and there's someone in their family, someone that they work with, someone that is close to them," says Hughes.

It takes a lot of work to pull off such a massive walk. Dozens of volunteers will start working in the wee hours of the morning.  Hughes says even after all these years there are two moments that are the most memorable.

"The best part of the walk is when you first see those walkers take off from the start line and the second piece is when you see them leaving to their car you know it's been a successful event. You hope there have been great experiences that those people have had," says Hughes.

The heart walk kicks off Saturday at Metropolitan Park at 9 a.m.  The health fair starts at 8 a.m.