Toronto

15,000 runners, cyclists take over Toronto's highways for Ride for Heart

Thousands of cyclists and runners took over the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway on Sunday for the Heart & Stroke Foundation's annual fundraiser.

The event, now in its 31st year, is on track to raise $6 million for research

Cyclists in the Manulife Run for Heart bike against the backdrop of the Toronto skyline. The fundraising event is now in its 31st year. (CBC)

Thousands of cyclists and runners took over the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway on Sunday for the Heart & Stroke Foundation's annual fundraiser.

As of Sunday morning, the Manulife Ride for Heart was on track to raise $6 million for research funding. This year marked the 31st edition of the event.

Among the 15,000 participants hitting the pavement this year was Ben Fox, who suffered from a stroke at 15 while playing hockey. He then spent the next six months in the hospital recovering.

He says the funding and support provided by Heart & Stroke for health research changed his life.

"If this wasn't in place, I probably wouldn't be alive, let alone [have] the huge recovery and fast recovery that I had," he said.

'It's a great feeling knowing all these people are here towards a great cause,' said 19-year-old Ben Fox. (CBC)

University of Toronto's Milica Radisic, one of the researchers benefiting from Heart & Stroke funding, was also present.  

Radisic, who is the Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering, uses stem cells to create beating heart tissue. That tissue can then be used to test cardiac drugs. 

"This is really greatly appreciated," she said of the funding support. "I think Canadians don't realize how difficult it is to raise money for research."

The Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway had been closed beginning at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning for Ride for Heart. They reopened at 2 p.m.