Spread the love — and the word — February is Heart Month for Ottawa Heart Institute

From left, Lianne Laing, executive director of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation, and her colleague Lindsay Firestone, director of community engagement and development, in the Hintonburg and Wellington Village district with small business owner Nicolina Leone of The Rig boxing gym, as they prepare for the launch of February is Heart Month. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Just when it seemed Valentine’s Day had a monopoly on the whole red heart thing, along comes the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI) to make the iconic symbol of love even more popular during February is Heart Month.

The world leader in treatment and research against heart disease is raising awareness and funds with partners across the city, whether by lighting up buildings in hues of red, selling and displaying red paper hearts, organizing activities, or making donations that will be matched throughout February by donors.

The Wellington West BIA (Business Improvement Area) has joined forces for several years now with the UOHI Foundation to help promote February is Heart Month. The seasonal celebration is a way of highlighting those businesses in Wellington Village and Hintonburg that focus on health and wellness — often a priority for people as they look to make self-improvements in the new year, said BIA executive director Dennis Van Staalduinen. 

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It’s not lost on the businesses that the Ottawa Heart Institute is located near Wellington Village and Hintonburg. The institute employs more than 1,400 physicians, nurses, researchers, technicians, allied health professionals and others who are customers of the vast array of stores and boutiques, restaurants, cafés and specialty food shops, health and beauty services, and professional services.

“The merchants of Hintonburg and Wellington Village are all about making connections and win-wins for the community,” said Van Staalduinen of the annual campaign

Heart Month officially kicks off tomorrow. The large monument of the Ottawa Heart Institute logo, which resembles a red pretzel-looking heart, can easily be spotted on the south side of Wellington Street West, just east of Parkdale Avenue. 

February is Heart Month really does help to open up conversations about the Ottawa Heart Institute and heart health, said UOHI Foundation executive director Lianne Laing. Social media has become a powerful tool for reaching a wider audience, she acknowledged. “Social media, if you use it the right way, can really help build an awareness around something that affects all Canadians. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Canadians; it’s the No. 1 killer worldwide.”

It was in the middle of February is Heart Month in 2019 when Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Leiper suffered a heart attack while shoveling snow. He was successfully treated at the Ottawa Heart Institute.

Owner Amandine Pajor of Amandine Pâtisserie tries out the swing that’s part of a series of new public installations added to Hintonburg and Wellington Village to coincide with the launch of February is Heart Month in support of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Still being assembled as of yesterday was a series of red-framed, playful urban installations featuring a porch-like swing for passersby to enjoy. This year, the BIA has received government funding to make Heart 2023 bigger than ever, said Van Staalduinen.

Wellington West is bringing back its Big Heart fitness challenge to get people doing heart-healthy activities. Not only do registration fees support the Ottawa Heart Institute, but they’re also being matched by presenting sponsor Run Ottawa.

“Heart Month brings together so many good things into one place, where people can shop locally, they can stay healthy and they can support a good cause,” said Van Staalduinen. “I can’t think of a better way this February to celebrate heart health and love.”

The fitness challenge offers a flexible schedule. For outdoorsy types, options include a 2-km run/walk or a 4-km cross-country ski, bike or snowshoe on the multi-use Kichi Sibi Winter Trail. There are also businesses in the area that offer yoga, ballroom dancing, hip hop and bowling. Yes, the area has been home to West Park Bowling since 1946.

“We’ve got lots of different ways for people to keep motivated at whatever fitness level or activity level they’re at,” said Van Staalduinen. 

Throughout February, The Rig Boxing is donating proceeds from its special cash class held on Fridays to the Ottawa Heart Institute. Owner Nicolina Leone said The Rig has been doing “really well” since she opened the boxing gym in September 2021 at the corner of Hinchey Avenue and Scott Street in Mechanicsville. It’s right beside the Leone’s Service Centre that her late father owned and operated for 37 years. He saved up to buy the garage after immigrating from Sicily.

“Hintonburg is such an awesome community,” she said of the friendly, relaxed and inclusive environment. “It’s really got that vibe here.”

The Ottawa Heart Institute remains “incredibly grateful” for all the support it receives from the business community, said Laing, who’s looking forward to seeing that strong commitment to the cause on full display during their Light the Town Red.

“When you’re driving from one end of the city to the next, you’re going to see red everywhere, lighting up the skies, lighting up communities,” said Laing. “I think that, in itself, will be just an incredible thing.”

To learn more about the campaign, go to https://februaryisheartmonth.ca/

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