You’d think Ottawa was a city of hopeless romantics, given the number of buildings bathed in red lights each February, but the symbolic gesture is less about lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day and more about boosting public awareness around heart health.
The annual February is Heart Month campaign is a way for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) Foundation to raise funds in support of research, education, programs and care for the more than 220,000 patients treated at the cardiac facility each year.
“It’s saving lives every day,” said Lianne Laing, vice president of philanthropy at the UOHI and president of its foundation. “We want more people to know about the Heart Institute, to understand that it’s one of the top cardiac centres in the world, and that we have a gem right here in the city.”
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February is Heart Month and the University of Ottawa Health Institute Foundation is back with its annual campaign. Get ready to #LightTheTownRed
The Ottawa Heart Institute is also keen to make members of the public more aware of the dangers of heart disease, so that they can lower their heart attack risk. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women, yet 80 per cent of premature cases are preventable by living an active and healthy lifestyle, said Laing.
This month, there are community initiatives planned throughout the city. UOHI Foundation’s generous corporate match champions will once again be matching donations received. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has proclaimed February as Heart Month.
Local businesses, organizations and home owners are also showing their support and gratitude by lighting up their properties in red hues at night. It’s part of Heart Month’s popular Light the Capital Red initiative, now in its fourth year.
It’s easy to do, said Laing, adding that Preston Hardware has even designated a section of its hardware store to selling red LED lightbulbs and spotlights.
Another staunch supporter, DYMON Storage, is lighting up its windows again this year. Popular food retailer Farm Boy is illuminating three of its locations in Ottawa while Algonquin College’s official launch involved students from its cardiovascular technology program.
Also going red this year is Zibi, a mixed-use sustainable redevelopment project stretching across the Ottawa River, in both Ontario and Quebec.
A key component to Light the Capital Red involves visible signage and QR codes to better ensure the public is aware of the meaningful cause behind the light display, said Laing.
The Fairmont Château Laurier has a new pop-up Love Lounge that’s raising funds for the Heart Institute. It’s donating partial proceeds from its signature cocktail and mocktail. As well, visitors are contributing to the cause each time they purchase a love lock. They’re encouraged to personalize and attach the lock to a designated spot – an idea that was inspired by the famous Love Lock Bridge in Paris.
It was Catherine McLaughlin, the hotel’s new events and activations manager, who got the support from her leadership team to create the Love Lounge and add a philanthropic element. She has a soft spot for the Heart Institute, which has treated a close family member and friend.
In just one week, McLaughlin transformed the hotel’s former pop-up Elf’s Pub into a luxurious lounge, complete with such dazzling decor as a red lips loveseat, festive string lights, stylish curtains, kissing booth, and an eye-catching bar stocked with Lady Zoe gin.
Sharon Bosley House’s Avant-Garde Designs and Optimal Show Experience also played a contributing role.
“It was an absolute labour of love,” McLaughlin said of the project. She and Lori Wagner, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, welcomed visitors Friday from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation to the space, where they were wowed beyond expectations.
Included were Laing, Lindsay Firestone (director of community engagement and development), foundation board chair Elizabeth Roscoe (executive vice president and Ottawa practice lead at Rubicon Strategy), and foundation board member Deneen Perrin (director of public affairs and government relations and stakeholder engagement for the Royal Canadian Mint).