Southlake’s Virtual Run raises nearly $180,000 for local hospital

·4 min read

They got on their feet, they built up their endurance, and they learned some healthy eating habits along the way. And, in the process, they have raised nearly $180,000 for Southlake Regional Health Centre.

The Nature’s Emporium Run for Southlake, a four-week virtual challenge, came to a close on May 9 and organizers are looking back on another successful event tailor-made to the times we’re living in.

The deadline for participants to bring in their pledges was Friday, May 14, and by the time the clock ticked down, they had surpassed their fundraising goal of $175,000 – with Mayor Tom Mrakas and Team Aurora leading the way in individual and team fundraising.

“What was successful about this event was variety,” says Lynn Conforti of the Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation (SRHCF). “People got to pick the activity they wanted and that was appealing for a lot of people, and we also provided some content for people which resonated with a lot of folks.”

Making it a four-week event rather than just a day or two, providing unique content to foster each of the theme weeks of Eat Well, Make It a Habit, Build Your Endurance, and Go The Distance For Southlake, helped keep the momentum going, she said.

“It felt like you were building towards something,” adds SRHCF President and CEO Jennifer Klotz-Ritter. “You had really good engagement because you made it really fun. I think the Run Committee and the team, which Lynn led, did a really good job of building community virtually around the event. There were so many things to do during the day and in the evenings that brought people together. Whether you were doing yoga or Zumba, or stretching or cooking – it was great.”

But, above all, it was about the hospital and raising much-needed funds so clinicians have the tools they need to keep the community safe and healthy.

For the very first time this year, more than 50 per cent of participants stepped up to fundraise rather than simply registering to participate in the event. It was a “huge win,” they say, and also getting in on the fun – and the cause – were hospital staff.

“Throughout this time [of COVID-19], they have been through so very much,” says Ms. Conforti. “We are in the middle of a third wave and we still managed to have 12 or 14 teams enter from the hospital and it went way beyond our expectations. There was a competition within the hospital and it was an equal playing field: doctors, nurses, security – one of the great things they did was Dr. Eddie Chan, who is the physician lead of the program, got the doctors together and every person who signed up, the doctors sponsored them with $100 right off the top so everyone could start the race with $100 on their slate.

“With everything going on, these teams had a sense of community because it is about community and just showing their support for our community for all the support they have shown for us. It was really important for them.”

Adds Ms. Klotz-Ritter: “It is about rallying around Southlake and one another to make sure we’re supporting this hospital that is supporting us because the professionals and the staff are working tirelessly and really in very difficult times and circumstances, and I think they feel bolstered by the fact that folks came out and supported them through participating in the Run and contributing to the fundraising goals of the Run in order to give them everything they need to do their jobs.

“Thank you for your support. Aurora seems to have come out in spades and me, being new to the Foundation, I was really jazzed and a bit tickled to see the competition between all the different mayors. For Mayor Mrakas and the Town of Aurora to win the Mayors’ Challenge and have bragging rights again I understand is a real point of pride [and] that speaks to a sense of community and really rallying around Southlake as a pillar of our community through every stage of life, especially when their hospital has been there for them in such a challenging time.”

For more on the 2021 Nature’s Emporium Run for Southlake Virtual Challenge, including an up-to-date leader board for individual and team fundraisers, visit

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting