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The Heart Behind The Walk: Jeanette Rogers Erickson Continues to Connect Community

The 25th Annual Heart Walk took place on Saturday, with Kern River Valley residents from all walks of life in attendance
Posted at 1:53 PM, Feb 25, 2024
  • Video shows footage of the 25th Anuual Heart Walk. Those with stroller and those with walkers populated the track at Kern Valley High School.
  • The 25th Annual Heart Walk took place on Saturday, with Kern River Valley residents from all walks of life in attendance.

One of the reasons The Heart Walk has stayed a successful fundraising event in the Kern River Valley is due to the magnetism of the person who started it: Jeanette Rogers Erickson.
“You can’t say no to her. You can ask anybody, they cannot say no to Jeanette,” said Colleen Bulgarelli, President of the Kern Valley Hospital Foundation.

Neighborhood News Reporter Corey O'Leary interviewing Colleen Bulgarelli, President of the Kern Valley Hospital Foundation
Neighborhood News Reporter Corey O'Leary interviewing Colleen Bulgarelli, President of the Kern Valley Hospital Foundation

The foundation raises funds for the Kern Valley Hospital and on Saturday they hosted the 25th Annual Jeanette Rogers Erickson Heart Walk.

The walk was started 26 years ago by Jeanette Rogers Erickson (one year the walk wasn’t held due to Covid-19).

“The Heart Walk is one of our biggest fundraisers,” Bulgarelli said.

Part of the reason is its founder, Jeanette Rogers Erickson. She radiates warmth, her wide smile and kind demeanor put those in her company at ease.

“I started it because I felt there was an opportunity to bring the community together, across lines of age and even philosophic background,” Erickson told me.

Although she had no formal training in marketing, she got the job as marketing director for the hospital in the 90’s. Her value in that role came from the fact that she had so many friends in the Kern River Valley community.

“When we first started we were praying for 25 people,” Erickson recalled.

The turnout ended up being about double that. Since then, it's grown even larger.

“Jeanette is instrumental in how successful it is. She hits the pavement, and really keeps people involved,” Bulgarelli said.

Teams and individuals participate in the walk that features friendly competitions for awards, costumes, and lunch.

Volunteer Claire Hartley helps cook that lunch and has been volunteering and participating in The Heart Walk for 20 years now.

“People love it,” Hartley said.

There are those that have been there from the start.

“They have come up every year and have served cinnamon rolls that are served at Hodel’s Country Dining,” Ericksons said, talking about the Bakersfield restaurant that donates their cinnamon rolls to serve participants.

With new participants joining every year, the ages of participants range from small children to those in their nineties.

“We’ve been allowed to see programs and even organizations and individuals to grow as people,” Erickson said.

And 26 years later Jeanette is still inspiring others to serve their communities.

“Community is a God given opportunity for people to learn service,” Erickson says.

Having lived in the Kern River Valley for sixty years now, she’s built her reputation as someone who everyone likes – and whose passion for serving the community spreads to those lucky enough to be speaking with her.

“She’s just infectious, she’s so full of love, welcoming and friendly. She’ll just get you in there and you don’t think you wanted to volunteer, but guess what, you are now a volunteer!”

“Everything she’s given, and everything she does, it’s infectious,” Bulgarelli said.

“It’s also inviting to just realize that you are a part of something bigger that any of us as individuals could ever accomplish,” Erickson said.


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