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Second chance at life led executive down a new path

After suffering a heart attack in 1990, Jim Chestnutt recovered -- thanks to the Toronto Rehab Foundation. Since 2004, he has been raising money for the rehab centre.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Jim Chestnutt

The Gift: Raising $750,000 and climbing

The Cause: The Toronto Rehab Foundation

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The Reason: To help finance the hospital's cardiac rehab program.

When Jim Chestnutt worked at the T. Eaton Co. many years ago the pace was relentless. He visited stores, checked up on merchandise and oversaw Toronto's Eaton Centre.

His life changed during a routine visit with the manager of a downtown Toronto store in 1990. Mr. Chestnutt began to feel ill and the manager quickly called an ambulance. He was rushed to Sunnybrook Hospital and the prognosis did not look good. Mr. Chestnutt, 51 at the time, had suffered a massive heart attack

"I was kind of on the way out," Mr. Chestnutt recalled. "They called my wife and said, 'Would you like to come and see your husband because he probably won't last the night.'"

Mr. Chestnutt survived but vowed to change his lifestyle. He enrolled in a cardiac care program at the Toronto Rehab hospital, which taught him what to eat, how to exercise and other keys to healthy living. "That has given me 22 more years of life to spend with my wife and my two sons," he said.

The program meant so much to him that in 2004, Mr. Chestnutt began organizing a fundraising walk on the hospital's indoor track. The first event drew a few dozen participants and raised about $25,000.

It has been held every year since and now attracts more than 200 walkers. So far the On Track to Cardiac Recovery walk has raised $750,000 in total and the target for this year's event, on Feb. 25, is $130,000. The day-long event also includes information on cardiac health. Mr. Chestnutt said the ultimate objective is to raise $1-million and finance a chair in cardiac rehabilitation at the University of Toronto.

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"I benefit from this because it keeps me out and busy," said Mr. Chestnutt, who is now 73. "But really, it's the future patients who are going to benefit from the program."

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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