Heart of Gold gala raises $1 million for cardiac care

Fundraiser co-chairs John and Maria Byland share their story about her treatment and recovery from a heart attack.

John and Maria Byland.

It was recently a record-breaking evening for the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation, as the Heart of Gold fundraiser brought in $1 million in support of Interior Health’s cardiac sciences program at Kelowna General Hospital.

The event, which included a dinner and auction, was co-chaired by John and Maria Byland, owners of Byland Nursery in West Kelowna. (www.kghfoundation.com)

“This is an outcome that far exceeded our expectations,” said Nancy Walstrom, with the KGH Foundation.  “We knew we had a generous philanthropic community here.  But this is absolutely unprecedented,”

The dinner was prepared by the Okanagan Chef’s Association, while the Bylands shared their own story to help put the issue of cardiac care in a personal perspective.

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 KGH in full cardiac arrest.

“I’ve been given a second chance,” Maria told the audience. “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,” added Dr. Frank Halperin, head of cardiology at Kelowna General Hospital.

“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.”

Charitable supporter Tom Budd, who heads up his Thomas Alan Budd Foundation, was the title sponsor for the fundraiser, saying, “People ask me why do I give? 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.”