Strides for Stroke growing in popularity, success every year

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The annual Richview Manor’s Strides for Stroke in support of Mackenzie Health is a family affair for the Vetteses.

As both a participant and organizing committee volunteer for Mackenzie Health Foundation, longtime Richmond Hill resident John Vettese is passionate about supporting his local hospital and giving back to his community.

More than 70 members of extended family and friends, including four-legged ones, joined the partners and employees of the Little Morello Vettese Segreto team Saturday, May 7 to run and walk five-kilometres and raise more than $4,800 for Mackenzie Health.

“We love the event,” John says. “It’s a wonderfully inclusive atmosphere. I run – it’s challenging, but I do it. My father insists on walking the whole route. My wife and I bring our son, Steven, and our golden doodle. So, it’s definitely a family affair.”

One of four Foundation annual signature events, Richview Manor’s Strides for Stroke continues to grow in popularity and success each year– a record 1,200 participants raised $240,000 this year – bringing the fundraising tally since its inception to more than $1.27 million, event chair and Foundation board director Joseph Gulizia says.

John, a lawyer and partner with Vaughan-based law firm Little Morello Vettese Segreto, has participated in Strides for Stroke as a runner for five years and also as a committee member for the last four years.

“Mackenzie Health is doing great work and my family has experienced that first hand. I want to do all I possibly can to support the hospital’s growth and development. The Strides for Stroke event is a great way to do that.”

John’s family has strong ties to the hospital; his younger brother, Daniel, was born at Mackenzie Health and his father, Joe, and mother-in-law, Alberta, have both received care there. Last year after a heart attack scare, his father was taken to Mackenzie Health, where he was assessed, stabilized and monitored. He was then transferred to the regional cardiac centre for triple bypass surgery in September. Today, Joe Vettese says he feels great and he is thankful for the rapid and compassionate care he received at Mackenzie Health.

John’s mother-in-law was treated for a stroke at Mackenzie Health’s District Stroke Centre a few years ago and has since fully recovered. He encourages others to become involved with their community hospital.

“We all lead busy lives; most people want to help, but with family and work commitments, finding the time seems like an insurmountable hurdle. But it is possible and every effort counts,” he says. “The Strides committee members are really talented and generous – we have become friends. We all work together for a great cause and it is gratifying.”

The volunteers behind the event play a key role in its success. Now stepping down after serving seven years as chair, Joseph is justifiably proud of the strides the event has taken during that time.

“One of my goals was to take it to the streets,” Joseph says, referring to the event venue’s move in 2015 – the 10th anniversary – from Richmond Green to the streets of Richmond Hill and Vaughan, beginning and ending near Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital.

The 10th anniversary marked another milestone, with a total of $1 million raised. Under Joseph’s leadership as President and CEO of UniversalCare Canada Inc., Richview Manor became the title sponsor seven years ago.

A highlight of his tenure includes the growing number of young people and hospital employees participating, as well as UniversalCare employees and residents – who are raising significant amounts of money, too. In particular, he mentioned Richview Manor resident Margaret Kemp, who, at 94, raised $3,000 and participated in the walk’s 10th anniversary.

The UniversalCare-Richview Manor Movers and Shakers ranked number 1 in the team category this year, raising more than $52,000. Again this year, the top individual fundraiser title went to 11-year-old Aidan Walpole, who raised more than $8,000 with his partner, Margaret Kemp, who, sadly, passed away before she could walk again in Strides this year. “The beautiful thing about Strides is that it is an event for all ages that promotes wellness and philanthropy in our community,” Joseph says.

Strides for Stroke committee member John Vetesse (centre) was joined by family, friends and employees on the Little Morello Vetesse Segreto team.