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Toronto businessman runs with the bulls toward a good cause

Mark Johnson, pictured in his King Street office, fulfilled a lifelong dream when he ran with the bulls in Pamplona in July.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

The Gift: Raising $5,000 and climbing

The Cause:Funding equipment for a school in India

For years, Toronto businessman Mark Johnson had a dream. He wanted to run with the bulls in the Spanish town of Pamplona.

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"It has been a lifelong goal of mine to run with the bulls," he said adding that his inspiration comes from his love of Ernest Hemingway novels. His dream came true in July thanks to his wife, Nina, who gave him the trip as a birthday present.

Mr. Johnson wanted to do more than just have a good time. He decided to use the event as a fundraising opportunity and partnered with the Christian Children's Fund of Canada to find a worthy cause. They decided on a small school in rural India that lacked basic educational resources such as books. Mr. Johnson launched "Mark versus the bulls" and began using it to raise money to buy three computers and other supplies for the school.

The run was better and more frightening than he expected. "It was the only time in my life that I have run out of fear," he recalled. He added that most of the danger came from other runners who crowded into the narrow streets. "If I had to do it again, I would get closer to the bulls. It's safer." His run raised $5,000 so far and more proceeds are still coming in.

This isn't the first time Mr. Johnson has raised money for a project in India. He regularly donates a portion of the sales from his clothing company, Kovalum, which takes its name from a beach in India, to an orphanage in Kerala, India. That idea came from his wife's relatives who work at the orphanage.

So did the run and the fundraising live up to his dreams? "Yes," he said. "It was incredible."

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