By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Kevin Koenig had a heart of gold, but it suffered from disease.
At age 41, the South Florida furniture king suffered his first heart attack. He scoffed when doctors told him he needed bypass surgery and did his own research while recovering at home. It was 1988, and eventually he found a Miami doctor to successfully perform a new laser angioplasty procedure to open his blocked arteries.
According to his brother and business partner, Keith Koenig, that was the “Kevin” way.
“He was his own man,” said Koenig, president of City Furniture, a chain of stores with revenues of $330 million last year and 1,300 employees. “He was a very unique and wonderful guy, and he was generous beyond all belief.”
In addition to heart disease, which led to another heart attack later in life, Kevin smoked and didn’t have the best diet. This was in part because he suffered from chronic gastrointestinal problems, Koenig said. The entrepreneur, who founded Waterbed City in 1971 with a few thousand dollars in savings, died at age 54 in 2001 of kidney and heart failure.
“Heart disease certainly impacted his life dramatically, and the research and the improvements to cardiac-disease care helped improve his life,” said Koenig, co-chairman of the American Heart Association’s Broward County Heart Walk set for April 23.
In his honor, “Kevin is Why” is the City Furniture Heart Walk theme this year. Hundreds of participants will be wearing 3-inch buttons bearing Kevin’s picture. Those will serve as reminders of the mission to raise money in the fight against this country’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers — heart disease and stroke.
Like Kevin, whose foray into philanthropy began with a $40,000 check from City Furniture to Covenant House in Fort Lauderdale to benefit homeless youth, Koenig wants to make a big impact. He also wants to smash records.
Koenig set a goal of $1.25 million for the Broward County Heart Walk, up from the previous high of just under $800,000.
“But we’ve got so much momentum I have unofficially raised the goal to $2 million,” he said.
City Furniture has already been raising funds by giving customers the opportunity to donate to the AHA at the register as part of the Life is Why We Give campaign.
To show “meaningful support” for the Heart Walk with Koenig at the helm, City Furniture initially pledged $50,000. But now the challenge is to raise $101,000 since co-chair Rick Case, CEO of Rick Case Automotive Group, estimated his team could raise $100,000. Case was chairman when Broward County set its current record in 2015, when about 8,000 people took to the streets.
As for this year’s walk, Case said: “It’s going to be fantastic. It’ll be a lot bigger, going to beat my record.”
To help the campaign reach its goal, Koenig is reaching out to chief executives of the region’s major companies. Those who give at a high level are named vice chairman. Smaller companies can take part in the Executive Challenge by raising $5,000 or more through walkers, donations and sponsorships. There are also networking events at one-of-a-kind venues, like the Sun Sentinel printing press and offices, and BB&T Center, home of the NHL Florida Panthers.
“The case we can present to every CEO is: This is the No.1 killer, and this is one where we can make an impact on our community,” Koenig said, adding one doctor at an event had been awarded an AHA research grant involving replacement heart valves for young babies.
“All this research cumulatively makes the world a better place, and that’s what we’re doing,” Koenig said.
While Kevin Koenig didn’t have the health or energy to be City Furniture’s face of philanthropy, he was always behind the scenes with checkbook in hand, Koenig said. But he won’t be in the background at this year’s Heart Walk.
“We’re going to print up a zillion buttons that have Kevin’s picture on it,” his brother said. “And if somebody in our walking team wants to walk for their mom or dad, or brother or sister, or uncle or aunt, or somebody else, that’s great, too. But we’re going to walk for Kevin and walk to help make the community a better place.”