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Hugh Heron’s Mikey Network has put 1,400 defibrillators in public places and trained 11,000 people to use them.

Nicola Betts/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Hugh Heron

The Gift: Creating the Mikey Network

The Reason: To put defibrillators in public places

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About 10 years ago, Mike Salem was playing golf with a group of friends in the Muskoka region of Ontario when he collapsed and died of a heart attack.

"He was an outgoing, happy guy, really full of joie de vivre," said Hugh Heron, founder of Heron Group of Companies, a Toronto-based home builder where Mr. Salem was a partner. "We wanted to do something in his name."

Mr. Heron and some colleagues came up with the idea of putting defibrillators in as many public places as possible. They created the Mikey Network in 2003 and have raised more than $3-million in total, enough to put 1,400 defibrillators in locations across Toronto. The places include hockey arenas, community centres, seniors centres, libraries and businesses.

The group has also helped to train about 11,000 people to use the machines and raised awareness about heart disease. It has also donated more than 60 defibrillators to families with children who have heart disease and are waiting for hospital treatment or a transplant.

Mr. Heron said the devices have already saved several lives. "There are 14 people living today who wouldn't have been there without the defibrillators," he said.

He added that the charity hopes to install many more defibrillators in Toronto and across Canada. The organization has one device in Saskatchewan and it's looking for many more locations elsewhere. "It just keeps on growing," Mr. Heron said. He added that his vision is to see defibrillators become as common as fire extinguishers.

While he has been involved in other causes, Mr. Heron said the Mikey Network remains something special for him and his colleagues. "This is the best thing we've ever done," he said. "Being able to put something back like this is really exciting."

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pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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