You could say the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation doesn’t miss a beat.
When its annual Jeanne Fuller Red Dress Charity Golf Classic first fell by the wayside last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundraising arm of the world-class health centre – together with its volunteer organizing committee – quickly created a fresh new event to raise funds for the prevention of and research into women’s heart health.
Their inaugural 30-day virtual fitness challenge, Jump In for Women’s Heart Health, was so well received that they're not only bringing it back this September but taking steps to grow it by leaps and bounds. The Foundation is presenting the event in partnership with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and with support from the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre.
It’s adding fun features to keep everyone connected, motivated, inspired and informed. Jump In is also going national by opening up registration to residents across the country.
“We want to broaden it to all Canadians,” said Lianne Laing, executive director of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation.
Funds are raised through a $20 registration fee and through matched donations from corporate sponsors. Jump In is as much about upping awareness as it is about fundraising, Laing noted. It’s about getting the message out that about 80 per cent of cardiovascular disease is preventable through healthy eating and regular exercise, and that women’s heart attack symptoms and risk factors differ from men’s. Heart disease remains the number one killer of women.
“Yet, we are underresearched, underdiagnosed and undertreated,” she added.
Jump In organizers are adding thousands of dollars worth of sporty prizes and giveaways this year, donated by such companies as Salomon and Kombi. They’re also creating a new daily online activity calendar that gives participants links to a range of options, from strengthening exercises and yoga, to running tips and meditation, to healthier food choices.
As well, participants will hear from Dr. Thais Coutinho, chair of the CWHHC and head of the cardiac prevention division at the Heart Institute, and such well-known health and wellness influencers as Running Room founder John Stanton, golf legend and Golf Town ambassador Lisa “Longball” Vlooswyk and beloved author and motivational speaker Kathie Donovan.
“Every day when you log in, you can see what you can win, what tips are available, workout ideas, live workouts, live Q&As,” said Laing. “There are a lot of things you'll be privy to.
“We want people to feel engaged throughout the month, find the peer support that they’re looking for, and also to try new things. We want participants to feel like we’re supporting them. We’re not just saying, ‘Go do it and figure it out.’ We’re going, ‘OK, let us inspire you, let us teach you, let us motivate you and then motivate each other.’”
Incidentally, Laing is a former competitive gymnast. She's been leading free, early-morning online fitness classes from her home throughout the pandemic, to keep her followers motivated and strong.
Jump In is chaired by Natalie Tommy, vice president of marketing for Nautical Lands Group and its Wellings adult lifestyle communities for the 55-plus age bracket, being created across the country.
She’s particularly excited to see the virtual event open up this year to all Canadians, and credits fellow committee member Louise Dixon from Corus Entertainment with helping to get the word out.
“Really from the get-go, the goal was to take it across the country,” said Tommy.
"For myself, I did it last year and I haven’t stopped walking every single day since I started"
Participants exercise 30 minutes a day, in some shape or form. The half-hour commitment can be broken up into separate time blocks if it’s more convenient. In a further effort to keep things simple, organizers have also made Jump In affordable.
“It had to be like, ‘It’s $20. For God’s sake girl, let’s do it and make the commitment,'” said Tommy. “For myself, I did it last year and I haven’t stopped walking every single day since I started. The benefits for your cardiovascular health are huge.”
Last year, Jump In saw more than 2,200 people register, completing more than 1.8 million minutes of exercise and raising upward of $155,000 in support of the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre.
The Foundation team has taken a hands-on role in the organizing of Jump In, Tommy stressed.
“They’ve been phenomenal. Working with the Heart Institute Foundation is a blessing.”
Participants of Jump In are encouraged to upload photos and videos of themselves to social media, using the hashtag #JumpIn4HeartHealth and #GiveWithHeart. If you’re not the social media type, you can also share your success with Jump In organizers privately, via direct message.