Heart attack survivor wins Golden Shoe Award

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Ron Beaumont’s wife, Margaret, got the shock of her life late one evening in August 2005 when she switched off the TV, climbed the stairs in the couple’s western Sydney home, and found Ron in extreme pain on their bed.

Ron had suffered a heart attack while having a shower. He’d called out to Margaret, but when he couldn’t raise her, Ron managed to make his way to the bedroom and call Triple Zero himself. Within minutes, paramedics arrived and rushed Ron to Westmead Hospital.

After surviving this ordeal, Ron was determined to protect his heart health. He took up walking, and in 2010 became the founding member and Walk Organiser of a Heart Foundation Walking group called the Blacktown Walkers.

Since then, Ron’s group has grown to be one of the largest in NSW, with more than 60 regular walkers, including many from outside the Blacktown area. Its popularity is due mainly to Ron planning walks for his group not just locally, but all over Sydney and even to some regional areas.  

For his incredible dedication to walking, Ron has just been named a winner in the 2019 Golden Shoe Awards. Run annually by Heart Foundation Walking, the awards recognise individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to walking.

“I am over the moon to have received this award, but that’s not what motivates me,” Ron said. “I get a real buzz from giving people a reason to get out of bed and taking them to areas they might otherwise never see, especially people who have moved to Australia from other countries.”

This year, the Golden Shoe Awards attracted a record 233 entries from across Australia. While Ron has won the “Courage and Commitment” category, the other winners are:

Category: Wellness Warrior
Winner: Mike Dunne, Victoria

Mike, 62, started the Melton Sons Heart Foundation Walking group in 2016 after participating in the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation’s Sons of the West men’s health program.

“It’s a fantastic program, but only goes for 10 weeks once a year. I wanted to get involved in something that would help keep me and others stay fit all year round,” Mike said.

Now Mike is a walking convert. In addition to being Walk Organiser for the Melton Sons, and striding out with them every Monday night, he walks on Thursday evenings with another group, the Watergardens Walkers.

“I also try to build walking into my daily routine,” said Mike, who works as a general manager at a shopfitting installation and supply company. “I walk every day and everywhere, including up to an hour at lunch time.”

Mike said he is “surprised and pleased” to win a Golden Shoe Award, but a greater prize is his improved health. Before joining Heart Foundation Walking, Mike was significantly overweight, and suffered hypertension and sleep apnoea. Now he is several kilos lighter, has normal blood pressure, and sleeps easily.

Category: Leadership
Winner: Mary Smith, South Australia

Mary had always been a keen walker, but it wasn’t until she retired in 2015 that Mary joined a Heart Foundation Walking group, the Glandore Community Centre Walkers, in suburban Adelaide. They walk together every Tuesday morning.

Since then, Mary has not only clocked up more than 500 walks, but also become the group’s Walk Organiser – a job she takes very seriously. Mary introduced coffee mornings for members on the first Tuesday of every month, as well as a mid-year lunch and an end-of-year Christmas morning tea. “'These activities are valuable, particularly for some walkers who really benefit from the social interaction and company of others,” Mary said.

Every third Tuesday, Mary and other trained Walk Organisers in the group plan a walk with a difference, to explore new local landmarks and places of interest. Her networking with other groups’ organisers leads to new ideas too.

“This year, I have been regularly emailing all group members with information about what we have planned and ask for ideas for future walks. It's a good way to be inclusive and I try to contact walkers who seem to have dropped off the radar to make sure they are OK,” Mary said.

As a result of her excellent leadership, membership of Mary’s group has grown from four or five when she first joined to about 20 regular walkers.

“To win this award is amazing. I can't believe my passion has been infectious enough to inspire someone to nominate me, so it’s a real privilege and I feel really chuffed,” Mary said.

Category: Zero to Hero
Winner: Russell Aitken, NSW

Russell, 67, from the south-western Sydney suburb of Bradbury, retired in 2010 in poor physical shape. “I was overweight and unfit after working in a desk job, and as soon as I retired, I started walking for half an hour every day to reverse that situation,” Russell said.

On his walks, Russell met up with friends and neighbours, and soon they were motivating each other to walk longer and further. Now Russell walks around five kilometres a day and is around eight kilos lighter than the day he retired.

Another motivation is Russell’s eight grandchildren, aged 15 to just 12 months, and with one more arriving later this year. “I’d like to be around to see them grow up, and I also find myself looking after the little ones. I need to be fit to keep up with them!” he said.

Russell was nominated for a Golden Shoe Award by one of his daughters. “I am gob-smacked about winning,” he said. “Usually you know when you’re being nominated for something, but she kept it a secret. This is an awesome surprise.”

Heart Foundation Walking is supported by the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.