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Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada ~ 50th Anniversary

Brief History

The Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada was founded as Marina Lodge in 1965. Historically, the charitable organization was names after Princess Marina of Greece who was also the Duchess of Kent and who had a great interest in the rehabilitation of handicapped adults. The mission, at that time, was to provide a sheltered workshop for adults in Toronto. When operating funds could not be obtained from the Ontario government, the Directors approached the Toronto Rehabilitation Centre, as the institution best suited to their mission.

In 1976, Marina Lodge began raising funds to support the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at the Toronto Rehab Centre. With two successful capital campaigns in 1980 and 1991, the volunteers were able to raise more than $6 million and lead the construction of two buildings that when completed, were able to accommodate as many as 1,800 cardiac patients weekly, on an outpatient basis. In each case, operating funds were obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Health. This program, at the time, was recognized as the largest and most prestigious in the world.

In 1985, Marina Lodge started the “WALK OF LIFE” to promote walking as one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular fitness and to bring awareness of the need for disease prevention. Proceeds from the walks were used to provide operating funds for scholarships, invited lectures, medical equipment and to continue Dr. Terry Kavanagh’s research.

By 2001, the Marina Lodge Directors and volunteers decided there was a need to support cardiac rehabilitation programs all across Canada and changed the name of the organization to the Canadian Cardiac Rehabilitation Foundation (CCRF) to reflect their expanded role. In the following years, CCRF continued to support Toronto Rehab and also raised funds for more than thirty cardiac rehab programs across the country, through the “WALK OF LIFE”.

By 2009, disease prevention had become an even more compelling issue. The Directors again decided to revise their mission and include cardiac prevention education as a major component of their mandate, in addition to supporting cardiac rehab programs. To reflect this important shift in focus, the Directors, with support of the volunteers, voted to change the name of the organization to the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada.

2010 – Present
The WALK OF LIFE has grown to a major National WALK OF LIFE Campaign now involving over 7,000 participants across the country and supporting and giving grants to 30 centres and collectively raising over $ 1 Million annually for cardiac rehab, education and prevention of cardiovascular disease. The GTA WALK OF LIFE alone now raises over $520,000 and has over 2,000 active participants. The funds generated are used for supporting cardiac rehab centres across the country, public forums, professional lectures patient education and resources, facilities and medical equipment. Walk of Life added 5 and 10 km competitive runs to the 1 km 3km & 5 km walks in 2010 and a Dance-a-Thon for tots in 2013 and chair exercises and poling for the elderly in 2015.

Besides the $300,000+ endowment fund which the foundation established at the University of Toronto awarding $12,000 in scholarships annually, four graduate scholarships are also awarded each year through the CACPR at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress. A new $100,000 endowment fund was established in 2014 at the University of Guelph/Humber to award two scholarships annually for Fitness and Health Promotion, and Exercise Science and Lifestyle Management and Kinesiology students.

Student intern programs were started in the Cardiac Health Foundation office in 2010 and 10-12 students are mentored annually from the University of Guelph, Humber College, University of Toronto and George Brown College.

In 2011 and again in 2014, the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada received an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant for $134,000 and $70,000 to promote the Heart Wise Exercise Program. This program was founded by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the grant was awarded to the foundation to promote it in the GTA. Other collaborative partners in this project include EMS, Mikey Network, and UHN.

Ride for Rehab - Alex Holton and Vanessa Parlette cycle across Canada representing the Cardiac Health Foundation and raising funds for cardiac rehab in 2012 and visit cardiac rehab centres along the way sharing their story about getting a second chance at life and the importance of exercise and cardiac rehab after a major cardiac event.

Fundraising partnerships are established with other cardiac health related charities namely, the Mikey Network, Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance and Cardiac Kids in support of Sick Kids Hospital. In addition, the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada has committed $325,000 to support the new Dr. Terry Kavanagh Heart Health Laboratory at the University of Toronto – a facility developing cardiac health studies on the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and lead research breakthroughs in the area of heart health and cardiac rehab. The promotion of the latest research findings are disseminated to the public through lectures, and educational information published on the website, and in publications to the general public.

Cardiac Health Foundation will be taking part in the 2015 virtual World Walking Tour representing Canada with National Walk of Life Campaign. The projected 30,000 kilometers walked will add steps to the AROUND THE GLOBE WALK to raise awareness of “remaining physically active after a heart event can make a world of difference”.

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