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Racing and raising funds for community health care


August 8, 2021 - Donor Story, Stories

You could say Jim Schembri is an active guy. Not only is he a three-time Ironman finisher, he’s lost count of the number of marathons, half marathons and 10K races he’s completed. His social media feed is full of near-daily posts highlighting the day’s bike ride, run or swim.

Now in his mid-50s, Jim has his sights set on a long racing career ahead: “I plan on racing until I'm about 80—I hope maybe longer.” And he intends on making those years even more meaningful by using future races and training cycles as opportunities to support Osler Foundation through a personal fundraising page.

Jim’s commitment to this fundraising stems from a long history with Osler hospitals. He is a member of Osler’s Strategic Communications team, but he says his connection runs deeper than this.

“My connection with Osler goes way beyond working here,” says Jim. “I grew up in Malton and I remember when EGH opened—we were there to get a piece of cake and everything. It's the first hospital I remember being admitted to, I remember my mother being admitted several times, my brother was there—that was our hospital.

“And then we moved to Brampton. I was diagnosed with Crohn's at Peel, my father was diagnosed with his heart condition here, my brother was brought here before he died and my mother's cancer care started at Osler. All of our care comes through here.”

Jim’s personal and professional experience with Osler hospitals gives him unique insight on the importance of local health care that wants to share with others.

“I want to do something to raise, not just money, but money and awareness for community health care,” he says. “This is your point of care—this is where you go when you call for an ambulance. And obviously I think this is the best community care hospital there is in in Ontario.”

On New Year’s Day 2012, Jim realized weight gain caused by an unhealthy lifestyle had become a problem he could no longer ignore. “I used to be a competitive cyclist a long time ago. Then, I got on medication that helped control my Crohn’s disease, which meant I could eat whatever I wanted. So I did, which meant I got really, really fat. One day, after a New Year's Eve party at our house, and way too much libations and food, I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without stopping. That's when I decided, ‘I’ve  got to lose weight’, and started a learn-to-run program.”

Today, Jim follows a vegetarian diet and has his sights set on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. “I race about six times a year, normally,” he says. “Between Ironmans and half Ironmans, marathons, half marathons and 10Ks, I train, pretty much 365 days a year and I share my training on social media. I want to use this as an opportunity to make a difference.”

Jim has set a tentative fundraising goal of $5,000 a year. “After 20 years that's going to add up to a little bit of cash and awareness.”