“Your life is worth one hour a day”
This is Annie Smith’s mantra, and a quote from her cardiologist Dr. Heather Ross, head of the Division of Cardiology at University Health Network’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.
Back in 2016 after receiving an internal defibrillator and pacemaker to keep her heart beating, she ended up in Dr. Ross’ care diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis – a rare, incurable, life-threatening inflammatory heart disease. At that time when Annie was at her sickest, it meant avoiding strenuous exercise and limiting physical activity to walking.
However, her diagnosis didn’t stop her. A personal trainer, group fitness instructor and fitness advocate, Annie walked 10km every day and – remembering Dr. Ross’ words – quickly came up with the idea for Annie’s Pace, a four-day, 120km treadmill walk dedicated to raising awareness and funds for heart health and heart research.
She created a fundraising page through UHN Foundation. The online fundraising platform allows her to easily promote Annie’s Pace and collect donations. All funds raised go directly to Dr. Ross’ Test Your Limits campaign in support of heart disease and heart failure research. In the first year, she raised $5,500.
Annie’s Pace was so successful that in 2020 she expanded it to become Annie’s Pace Global Adventure (APGA), with three main goals:
- Inspire people around the world to get physically active for at least one hour per day
- Encourage organ donation to increase heart transplants and save lives
- Raise funds for Test Your Limits
To achieve these goals, Annie uses social media to get the word out and has even received national media attention through CTV and other news platforms. She is the sole organizer and does everything herself – a testament to her strength and determination.
While encouraging others to get active, Annie chooses to test her own limits by walking as much as she can over the four days, held annually the last weekend in May. In April 2022 Annie was scheduled for bilateral knee surgery but didn’t want to miss out, so she completed her own personal AGPA before her surgery and filmed it for the official AGPA weekend. She managed to walk 101 kilometers on her treadmill all while wearing braces on pre-surgical knees. Post-surgery, Annie joined in on APGA by visiting participants, cycling and walking as much as she was able to.
Now in its’ fourth year, APGA has raised more than $18,000 and Annie is not slowing down. There are already participants from Hong Kong, Greece, Switzerland, Romania, Canada and the United States, and next year she hopes for even more participation, both locally and globally.
“I want the world to unite for four days ever year for heart health awareness,” says Annie.
Today, Annie’s heart is completely dependent on her pacemaker and she is monitored closely by Dr. Ross both virtually and in person – but it seems that nothing can slow her down. She can now include modified strength training in her workouts, and continues personal training, planning and promoting APGA and even mentoring other fundraisers, helping them receive media attention for their cause.
Annie is a powerhouse and a great reminder that anyone can give back and make a difference while doing something they love.
Start your fundraiser today!
UHN Foundation’s fundraising pages are an easy way to make an impact on the future of health care at UHN. The platform supports individual or group fundraisers, and each page can be customized with an image and story. Donors will receive a tax receipt by email for their gifts. To start your own personal fundraiser, visit UHNfoundation.ca/fundraise.