Heart and Stroke breakfast saying farewell

Colleen Marsel, an enthusiastic supporter of the Heart and Stroke campaign, has been the face of the event since the beginning.

This February 1, when everyone in the Silverbridge Travelodge conference room gets up from their tables for a few 7:30 a.m. calisthenics, it will be the very last time.

Everyone likes to mark the Heart and Stroke Celebrity Breakfast on their calendars but this year there is even more reason, as the iconic event will call it a day after 2016.

The 30th annual breakfast will be held on Monday, Feb. 1 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Travelodge in Duncan.

Colleen Marsel, an enthusiastic supporter of the Heart and Stroke campaign in the Valley, has been the face of the event since the beginning.

It’s been an exciting three decades, raising awareness and raising money but it’s time to ring down the curtain, she said.

“There’s just no one else to take it over. This will be the last breakfast but the door-to-door fundraiser and the Big Bike [event] will continue,” she said.

“It’s going to be a fun time. The theme is Out of This World. We’ve got all kinds of decorations to make the room look great. And, of course, our emcee, Cam Drew, always makes it so fun, even if it is early in the morning.”

Part of the celebration on the day will be a walk down memory lane. Organizers are putting together a slideshow featuring pictures from the Celebrity Breakfast/walking club/Big Bike from the past 30 years.

For Marsel, it’s been very special period of her life.

“I remember all the different themes, all the different outfits. We’ve played so many games. But I also think about all the money that we’ve raised. It’s over $250,000 now from the breakfasts. We’re pretty delighted. And the thing is it’s the only volunteer-run Celebrity Breakfast in the province.”

Marsel, who has been the wind beneath project’s wings, gives credit to her own father for her continued inspiration.

“My dad had quadruple bypass surgery in 1992 and survived. He’s 90 now and he’s going to be at the breakfast,” she said.

The provincial Heart and Stroke Association will be sending representatives to the meeting but there is also entertainment on tap.

“We’ve got Ricki-Lee [Allison] with her dancers. They’ll be doing some sort of Star Wars number. We’ve got an Out of This World number from the aerobics gal for exercises, too. It’s going to be a real celebration of how the whole community has come together year after year.”

Marsel herself has a name for the Cowichan Valley.

“It’s the Community of Hearts, no doubt about it. The Valley has been one of the highest money raisers per capita in the province. And everything is volunteered: all that food is volunteered. The coffee, the muffins, the 55 dozen eggs, all the prizes, it just goes on and on. Of course, all the celebrities all donate their time.”

The hard working volunteer Heart and Stroke team “is dwindling sadly, and some of that is due to heart problems” but Valley folks will still keep fighting, just in different areas, to raise the money, Marsel said.

“I’ll still canvass and I’ll still look after Big Bike, but we’re going to have to let this one slide.”

So, come dressed in your favourite Star Wars character, an astronaut or an alien and get set to blast off on another Heart & Stroke Campaign.

Bring lots of change for the fabulous raffle prizes.

Marsel is challenging the Valley to end these breakfasts with a bang.

“Let’s blow the ceiling off our $15,000 fundraising goal and really put the Cowichan Valley on the map,” she said.

It’s worth working for because 70,000 Canadians die of heart disease and stroke every year — that’s one life every seven minutes.

Meanwhile, 1.6 million Canadians are living with the effects of heart disease and stroke and 80 per cent of those problems are preventable, with pre-emptive action.

Tickets to the breakfast are $20 and they are going quickly.

“We delivered hundreds of them in the community yesterday and today. Hopefully we’ll get over 300 people there. And remind people to get there early because there won’t be much parking by the time 300 people get there.”

Order your tickets from Marsel at 250-748-9614 or by email colleenmarsel@shaw.ca