Don Valley Parkway & Gardiner Expressway Shut-Down June 3, 2012 from 2 A.M. to 2 P.M. for Heart & Stroke’s “Ride for Heart”

Update:

From Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 2 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway will be closed to vehicles and the bicycles will take to the roads in the Heart and Stroke "Ride for Heart" event.

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Taking over both the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway is sure to annoy some drivers. But for thousands of Torontonians, Sunday’s inconvenience is hands-down worth saving lives.

Around 13,000 cyclists are taking over the two main arteries from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the annual Becel Heart and Stroke Ride for Heart.

For its 25th anniversary, the fundraiser has reached its maximum number of registrants.

“We’re essentially sold out,” said Teresa Roncon of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

They’ve reached about 80 per cent of their $5-million fundraising goal, “our most ambitious campaign,” said Roncon.

Joining the ride is 22-year-old York University student Maya Stern of Thornhill. She had a heart transplant in February 2011 after a stroke and multiple brushes with death.

“I’m pretty excited; this is my first big goal,” said the environmental studies student.

Stern was just starting university and had lived away from home less than three months when she had to move back

“I would go through cycles,” she said. “They’d treat me, I’d be better for a bit and then I’d get a sick.”

Multiple surgeries took a toll on her family, with her mother leaving work to take care of her.

“Everybody had to drop their lives.”

Stern, who is pursuing a career in public health, is now fully healthy. She said she is proof of the research the ride supports, having gone from only managing to walk five steps to taking on a 25-kilometre bike ride.

“I can live a normal life now. I just finished my first year of school. It’s a big deal,” she said.

Rain is expected throughout Sunday, with 15C for the duration of the 25-, 50- and 75-km treks. But Stern says it’s not going to stop her.

“We have ridden in all kinds of weather; it does go ahead rain or shine,” said Roncon. “We’re hardy.”

Heart disease and stroke cut 1 in 3 Canadian lives short, according to the foundation. Combined, both issues are the number-one killer of Canadian women.

“People don’t realize how many people are affected by these,” said Roncon. “The people riding on Sunday, and those supporting them, it’s all because they want to save lives.”

The foundation, which says 80 per cent of premature heart disease is preventable, uses cycling to raise funds and point to healthy lifestyle changes.

Meanwhile, for drivers heading to Sunday’s Blue Jay game and other events, the Gardiner closure spans from Carlaw Ave. to the Humber Bridge. The city suggests using Lake Shore Blvd. as an alternative. The DVP will be closed from Hwy. 401 to the Gardiner; suggested alternatives are Bayview Ave., Leslie St. and Don Mills Rd.

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