Running to build healthier workplaces for over 11 years

By Run Ottawa member, Richard Borsos

On October 20, 2016, 800 federal employees ran or walked in support HealthPartners. Long-standing Run Ottawa member, Richard Borsos, has been steering this initiative at Public Services and Procurement Canada since 2006. We asked him to share his story:

What is HealthPartners, and why did you choose it?

HealthPartners connects workplace donors with 16 of Canada’s health charities—raising funds to make a difference in the lives of those suffering from chronic illness and disease and provides organizations the tools and information to build healthier workplaces. My mother died of cancer and my father died of a heart attack. Canadian Cancer Society and Heart and Stroke Foundation are two of 16 charities that make up HealthPartners, so it was the right personal choice for fundraising as far as I was concerned. And, discovering the sobering fact that 87% of all Canadians will be affected by a chronic disease in their lifetime clinched it.

How did the 5K walk/run get started?

Starting over eleven years ago, I noticed that one of the standard fundraisers for the United Way campaign  (now called the Employee Charitable Campaign) was a pizza lunch. Once a week, one of the departmental branches would put up posters advertising two slices of pizza and a pop for $6.00 and people were lined up every week to buy this lunch!  I would notice the lineup when I was going out for my lunchtime run and I’d be shaking my head in disbelief. I thought at the time that fundraising activities on behalf of our health should be preventative and that eating cheesy pizza and sugary pop was ironically contributing to the costs of healthcare rather than lowering its costs.

I was sharing this sentiment with a colleague one day and it turned out that he knew the campaign manage…and he steered me into her office. It was time to put my money where my mouth was, I guess. So I suggested that we should go for a walk or a run to promote health and she gave me the green light!  The campaign at the time was drawing to a close so I scrambled to put some advertising up and a registration table and the first ever 5K walk/run was held in November 2006. I can’t remember exactly how many people showed up but we raised a hundred dollars or so.  Since then, I have had more time to get organized: Sports4 has always been kind enough to provide us with prizes for the top runners, walkers and pledge collectors. And Run Ottawa has been amazing providing me with shirts left over from Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend to give away at the registration tables as well as the use of a megaphone and a few large Gatorade containers.

How did the event go this year?

This past October 20, over 800 people signed up in the National Capital Region and we raised over $9,000. And this year, the event was international as the department’s Washington office and regional offices in New Brunswick and Manitoba went for a walk or run on the same day. In total, over 1,000 employees went for a walk or run at lunch that day and the national total was close to $13,000! The total raised for HealthPartners over the past 11 years is close to $70,000.  But despite this progress, I still remain aware that Place du Portage in Gatineau, where I work, along with its neighbour, Terrasses de la Chaudiere, has the largest concentration of public servants in all of North America!  I sincerely hope the event continues to grow and more people consider going for a 5K walk or run—not only for HealthPartners—but for a few lunch times every week throughout the year!

Thank you, Run Ottawa

I get to call myself the event director for one month prior to the 5K walk/run every year.  I get the permit from the National Capital Commission and apprise the City of Gatineau. I round up a number of volunteers to sit at the registration tables during lunch hour every day for a month before the event. And on the day of the event, I make sure everything is in place : volunteers, first aid, kilometre markers, a lead cyclist, the megaphone, senior management, and departmental communications. I do that for one month…and I’m pooped when it’s all over! I really admire Run Ottawa for organizing these events month in, month out, throughout the year. My hat’s off to Run Ottawa and I thank you for all your support.