Ain’t no mountain high enough for Supt. Heinz Kuck, particularly when he is pushing the limits of his body for Victim Services Toronto (VST).
In the past seven years, he has raised nearly $75,000 for the organization that provides crisis response, trauma and support services to victims of crime and sudden tragic circumstances 24 hours daily.
The 11 and 22 Divisions Unit Commander has paddled across Lake Ontario twice with a crew, mush dog sleds 420 kilometres through Algonquin Park, rode an elliptical bike from Toronto to the Quebec border in three days and climbed three of the highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains – a total of 15,325 feet above sea level – in three days.
And Kuck is not done.
Sometime in the next six weeks, he will do a winter trek consisting of a criterium bike ride, Nordic cross country skiing and hiking on snow shoes. Each event will be done over 42 kilometres on successive days.
“This trek is predicated on snow volume and it will be done between Barrie and Huntsville,” said Kuck, who is retiring in 2019 after 40 years with the Toronto Police Service. “The conditions have to be pristine.”
Kuck, who was instrumental in launching the Victim Services trauma dog program, was recognized for his enormous contributions to VST with the Leadership Excellence Award.
It was presented at the organization’s annual general meeting and appreciation dinner on December 11 at the Old Mill.
“Heinz is an extraordinary supporter of community organizations and community partnerships, a champion of Victim Services and a true civil servant,” said VST executive director Bonnie Levine, who made the presentation. “Through everything he does, it is abundantly clear that his main purpose is to serve others and make important contributions to society. Through his fundraising efforts for Victim Services, he has successfully increased awareness and support for victims through his many innovative and challenging events.”
Three years ago, Kuck connected VST to the Yorkville Run.
Almost $100,000 has been raised through this collaboration.
“This is a legacy gift that is going to help us for years to come,” added Levine. “That connection is immeasurable. Heinz is thoughtful, respectful, generous and creative and his kindness is boundless.”
Supervised by crisis counsellors, VST volunteers provide crisis intervention and referrals, assist on the telephone or attend the scene as requested, and also help with fundraising and other community outreach initiatives.
Each year, a volunteer is honoured with the Sandy Cappadocia Memorial Award.
Cappadocia was a 10-year VST volunteer who succumbed to brain cancer at age 33 in December 2005.
This year’s recipient was Heather Wilson, who joined the organization in 2015.
“I came across Victim Services while on the Internet looking for another volunteer opportunity,” said Wilson who moved to Toronto a decade ago from Conestogo where she was raised. “It just seemed like a good fit since I like helping people.”
VST program manager Sarah Rogers presented the award.
“The North York van attack and the Danforth shooting tested Victim Services to the limit, both emotionally and physically,” she said. “But our strength, spirit and resiliency didn’t waver and that’s mainly because of the energy and support we got from our volunteers. When we put out a call asking for volunteers to assist with both tragedies, they came out in droves.
“After the Danforth shooting, we were tired and our human resources were extended to the maximum. We called the business sector asking employers to donate their employees’ time to us. We needed experienced and skillful volunteers. Within 23 minutes of that call, Heather responded saying she was on board. You can always rely on her to rise to the challenge and flourish.”
Rogers said Wilson’s commitment to VST was evident a few years ago at the Chief’s Gala which is the organization’s main fundraiser.
“I specifically remember that night when things became hectic and some plans changed at the last minute,” said Rogers. “Heather kept pace every step of the way and was very calm, cool and collected. She took the initiative to identify the gaps and responded.”
Wilson is also is a valued helper to clients, staff and new volunteers.
“No matter what task she is given, she goes above and beyond every time,” Rogers added.
Toronto Police Services Board member Marie Moliner, A/Supt. Dave Rydzik and Deputy Chief Peter Yuen attended the event.
“We often talk about Victim Services working in the background,” Yuen said. “That is not so. “They work alongside police officers on the frontlines every day dealing with human tragedy.”
Between April 2017 and March 2018, the Victim Crisis Response Program assisted 19,847 individuals affected by crime and sudden tragedy. Of that total, 6,928 were children and youth victims.