Jim Reklitis is quick to admit that he’s not a gifted golfer, but what he lacks on the golf course he's made up for in his leadership role with the annual Fuller Keon Golf Tournament for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
The Heart Institute did, after all, save his life, as well as the lives of several friends and family members.
For the past 13 years, Reklitis, who’s vice-president and general manager at GDI Building Services, has chaired the organizing committee.
“I wanted to give back to the Heart Institute as much as I could,” the heart attack survivor told OBJ.social at the Loch March Golf and Country Club in Kanata on Monday.
Most of the 180 golfers showed up, despite the heavy rain, to play. Afterward, they went into the clubhouse for auction bidding and prize giveaways during a dinner emceed by John Rodenburg from TSN 1200.
The tournament netted a record-breaking $180,470 for the Heart Institute’s expansion project. Since Reklitis became involved, it's also raised more than $1.5 million.
“It’s not a one-man show,” Reklitis pointed out, while adding that he’s part of a larger committee of volunteers. “We work well together. Everybody contributes. It’s the network of people reaching out that makes it so successful.”
Reklitis now plans to pass the torch to Merv Clost, executive vice-president at Palladium Insurance. The Heart Institute will be naming the family waiting room in its new building after Reklitis and his wife, Penny Reklitis, in honour of his hard work and dedication.
The announcement was made at the dinner by lawyer Paul LaBarge (LaBarge Weinstein LLP), who’s taking over in a few weeks' time from Lawrence Soloway (Soloway Wright LLP) as chair of the board of the UOHI.
The tournament is named after two Ottawa legends: Thomas Fuller, a Second World War naval captain and founder of a now family-owned construction company, and his heart surgeon, Dr. Wilbert Keon.
Keon was at the dinner. He described Fuller, who died in 1994 at age 85, as “one of the most interesting people I ever knew in my life." That’s coming from a man who has helped several thousands of people over the course of his medical career. “It sounds like a bit of an assembly line but it wasn’t; I loved every one of them,” said Keon, 82, who’s also a retired senator.
Keon says it’s important for him to be at the dinner because he values the power of community. It was there for him when he first had the idea of creating a cardiovascular institute in Ottawa (the Heart Institute celebrated its 40th anniversary last year).
“A lot of people thought it couldn’t be done, and I thought it could,” he told OBJ.social. “It was this kind of sincere support and enthusiasm that made it possible. Handling the politicians was nothing after the local people had come out.”
The public country club is owned by son Mark Fuller and the Fuller family. It also hosts a late-summer golf tournament for female supporters of the Heart Institute in honour of family matriarch Jeanne Fuller.
Last-minute changes to the dinner schedule, due to the bad weather, meant that Heart Institute president and CEO Dr. Thierry Mesana was unable to make it (the cardiac surgeon was busy saving lives) but cardiologists Derek So and Sandy Dick were among the medical staff in attendance. One of Dick’s patients, Chris Troughton, a repeat heart attack survivor, is on the organizing committee.