Heart of Gold Gala Raises Over $1.1 Million for Interior Health Cardiac Program

“The entire evening can really be summarized in one word – stunning!” says Natalie Walstrom, Chair of the 2016 Heart of Gold Committee.  The Committee took on the ambitious task of converting an equestrian centre into an extraordinary gala venue that could have just as easily been plucked from the pages of a Ralph Lauren look-book.

As it was, the Spirit Ridge Equestrian Centre was nothing short of spectacular, as was the commitment shown by a group of philanthropic citizens who showed their full support for a cardiac sciences program that will benefit the entire Interior Health region for generations to come.

“This is an outcome that far exceeded our expectations,” says a grateful Walstrom. “We knew we had a generous philanthropic community here.  But this is absolutely unprecedented,”

The atmosphere was festive as guests arrived and dined on an exquisite meal prepared by the Okanagan Chef’s Association, featuring the regions’ top Chefs.

Then, when John and Maria Byland, the well-known and highly respected West Kelowna garden centre owners, took to the stage, the seriousness of the cause became very real.  John began by underscoring the urgency to be able to treat specific heart conditions here in Kelowna, and the need for philanthropy to make it happen.

On an evening last February, John and Maria went dancing and to dinner, as they have many times before.  But just a few hours later, Maria was in the emergency department at Kelowna General Hospital in full cardiac arrest.

“I’ve been given a second chance,” said Maria with graceful elegance. “I was very lucky to have survived the event.  But I had to wait 13 days for a bed in Vancouver to treat my condition. Together, tonight, we can make a difference.”

“We have made great strides on the vascular (plumbing) side of cardiology over the last several years, including the opening of the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre in 2015,” noted Dr. Frank Halperin, Head of Cardiology at Kelowna General Hospital in his appeal.  “But our goal is to have a fully functional heart program here in Kelowna, so people in our region, like Maria, don’t have to wait for a bed in Vancouver or Victoria; so that the level of cardiac care provided at KGH rivals the best hospitals in the country.”

“People ask me why do I give?” said an earnest Tom Budd, whose Thomas Alan Budd Foundation was the events title sponsor.  “I have given for many reasons in my life. If you just give more than you take, you have purpose, a life worth living. Giving has saved my life. Giving has changed my life.”

After a raucous round of paddle-raising with the Ritchie Bros. team of auctioneers, the Heart of Gold Committee took to the stage and confirmed that together, a total of over $1 million dollars had been raised.

It was an evening to remember, with a legacy that will live on within the walls of our local hospital for decades to come, as KGH continues to advance and grow into a world-class health centre.

It was a record-breaking evening for the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation, as honorary Heart of Gold event chairs John and Maria Byland inspired the crowd to raise over $1.1 million dollars towards the completion the cardiac sciences program at Kelowna General Hospital.