QUALICUM BEACH -- Carl grips the handles of his walker before embarking on his daily walk around the neighbourhood. He began the routine after enduring open-heart surgery.

Even concerns about COVID-19 can’t stop him.

“That’s one of the things I must do every day,” Carl says. “And I do, every day.”

The 82-year-old would rather be out golfing. But other health problems put a stop to that a couple of years ago and kept Carl’s golf cart in the garage before he could ever really use it.

“I’ve had some pretty near calls in my life,” he says, of the multiple times he’s been helped by all levels of health-care workers. “I really appreciate everything they did.”

So, the other day, Carl set his sights on seven o’clock. He decided to repurpose his cart, decorate it with flags, and leave his garage fuelled by gratitude for all the frontline workers.

Carl was surprised by what he found.

“It’s just me out there,” he recalls. “I’m kind of wondering, where is everybody?”

But that didn’t stop Carl from expressing his appreciation. With one hand on the wheel and the other holding a small bugle, he started driving and blowing as loudly around the neighbourhood as he could.

“I wasn’t sure what the noise was so I looked out the window,” one of Carl’s neighbours recalls, before realizing it was seven o’clock.

The next couple nights, Carl says he was the only one the streets. But after a couple weeks — after one neighbour told another neighbour, who told another — Carl is passing people expressing exuberant appreciation at almost every house he passes.

“This is a man of gratitude,” says one neighbour fighting back tears. “Total great guy.”

“Everyone comes out — in part — to see [Carl],” another neighbour says, making noise with his kids. “And really send encouragement along to all the medical staff.”

“It means lot to me, all the work [the frontline workers] are doing,” says a neighbour whose family is being cared for. “For Carl to get us all going, it’s a great thing he did.”

But Carl will be the first to say his bugle-blowing, flag-waving cart rides are not about him. This is about recognizing the people who fixed his heart when he needed back then — so he can rally his neighbours to share their hearts with the frontline works who need it now.