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Chris Wansbrough, 88, walks around the courtyard at his nursing home, Belmont House in Toronto, on Aug. 13, 2020.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Chris Wansbrough

The pitch: Raising $50,000 for Belmont House in Toronto

A few weeks ago Ruth Gould called her 88-year-old father, Chris Wansbrough, and mentioned that she’d seen an item on television about someone in a seniors’ home who’d walked around their complex to raise money for charity.

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“She said, ‘Why don’t I do it’,” Mr. Wansbrough recalled from Belmont House, a long-term care facility and retirement home in Toronto where he lives with his wife. “I said, ‘Well I hadn’t thought about that.’ And so the conversation ended and I thought about it and I got more excited about it, providing we could find some good objective.”

He raised the idea with Maria Elias, Belmont’s chief executive, who marvelled at the timing. The centre usually holds a large walk-a-thon every June to raise money for badly needed equipment but this year’s event had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When Chris came up with his idea we thought, ’This is amazing.’ We could certainly have him walk around the garden,” Ms. Elias said.

Mr. Wansbrough set himself a target of covering 100 kilometres and raising $25,000. He started walking on June 20 and covered about six kilometres every day around the centre’s garden (20 laps equals one kilometre). He’d walk early in the morning when the garden was empty and put in more laps later in the day, all without the aid of a walker. Family, friends and other residents got caught up in his journey and donations flowed in from across Canada, the United States and Britain. By the time he finished on July 4, Mr. Wansbrough had raised $50,000.

The money will be used to buy 10 new therapeutic mattresses, which Ms. Elias said were critical for long-term care residents who spend a great deal of time in bed.

“It all worked out fine,” said Mr. Wansbrough, a former president of National Trust Company who also served on the board of directors of Rogers Communications Inc. “I was never thinking that we would not make $25,000. My objective was always hopeful at $50,000.”

He added that he’s ready to take on another walking challenge if necessary. “If there were another special opportunity I would certainly consider it.”

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