The last time you were in a hospital — as a patient or a visitor — you probably didn’t pay much attention to the name out front. But thanks to millions of dollars in donations from philanthropists across the country, whose names are now enshrined on buildings and doorways, hospitals are getting much-needed funding to help Canadians live longer, healthier lives. What makes people give so much to health-care-related causes? We look at five leading philanthropists to find out why and how they’re giving back.
A personal pledge
Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight
The couple’s relationship with the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, in Toronto, dates back to 2002, with the establishment of the Gattuso Chair in Breast Surgical Oncology in honour of Gattuso’s mother and sister, who both battled cancer. A few years later, Gattuso herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. While her relationship with the foundation evolved from donor to patient, her family’s financial support didn’t stop, including long after she became cancer-free. The Gattuso-Slaight family donated more than $20 million in 2009 to the Gattuso Rapid Diagnostic Centre at Princess Margaret, which helps give breast cancer patients diagnoses and treatment plans in just one day. In 2013, the family donated an additional $50 million to the hospital, described as the largest private gift for cancer research in Canadian history.
Honouring an uncle
Most people recognize Peter Munk as the founder and chairman emeritus of Toronto-based gold giant Barrick Gold Corp. But Munk’s name is also synonymous with philanthropy, including the more than $65 million he has donated to date toward the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the Toronto General Hospital. Munk chose to support cardiac medicine after learning that heart issues are among the leading causes of death. In fact, his uncle, who brought him to Canada from Hungary, died of heart failure. In November 2014, Munk himself became one of the centre’s patients. He needed surgery to help unblock the main valve in his heart. Thanks to a new procedure that his donations helped fund, Munk didn’t have to have the riskier open-heart surgery to fix the problem, and was out of the hospital in a few days. Maybe it was good karma that helped in Munk’s speedy recovery, but the philanthropist also sees giving back as both a responsibility and a pleasure. “It gives you more satisfaction when you look back at the end of your life and see what you accomplished in the community and society,” he said in a magazine interview in 2015.
Supporting a community
Edward and Marjorie Danylchuk
For years, the Danylchuks have been major supporters of Winnipeg’s Grace Hospital through volunteering and various sponsorships from their businesses. In 2015, the couple donated $3.25 million to the hospital’s Tomorrow’s Grace capital campaign, the largest gift ever given to a community hospital in Winnipeg. The proceeds are being used to buy a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner and to help build a new emergency department. The hospital’s MRI suite is now called the Edward & Marjorie Danylchuk MRI Building, and the emergency department will be named the Edward & Marjorie Danylchuk Centre. Marjorie Danylchuk says Winnipeg is their home, and Grace Hospital is “essential to the health and wellness of the people in our community. The hospital has helped us – and our children and our grandchildren. We are privileged to be able to give back and support the long-term future of the Grace as it continues to support the health-care needs of our community.”
Keeping kids healthy
Stan and Marge Owerko
Two years after donating $5 million to the Alberta Children’s Hospital to help children with brain injury and illness, Stan and Marge Owerko doubled down on their investment, adding another $10 million in 2014. The couple said they were inspired by how their original gift was working to advance programs, technology and research at the Calgary hospital to help children with brain-related health conditions such as attention and developmental disorders (ADHD), sleep disorders, head trauma, stroke and epilepsy. The couple also set up the Owerko Family Fund for Brain Health at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, where friends and other community members can also contribute funds to the cause.
“I’m just a plumber who worked hard and had some good luck in my life,” says Paul Myers, owner of Keith Plumbing & Heating. “I figured a donation to the hospital was a good idea because it would help out more people.”
Good luck gives back
Plumber and entrepreneur Paul Myers has lived in North Vancouver, B.C., for more than 80 years, and on a few occasions he’s required the services of the local Lions Gate Hospital. All four of his kids were born there, and he’s been a patient after breaking his wrist, his arm and seven ribs, all at different times. To Myers, it seems logical that he would donate money to a place that helps people and where he says he’s always had good service. In 2015, he donated $25 million to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation, the largest donation to a hospital foundation in B.C.’s history. The money is being used to help improve patient care, including upgrading aging infrastructure. “I’m just a plumber who worked hard and had some good luck in my life,” says Myers, owner of Keith Plumbing & Heating. “I figured a donation to the hospital was a good idea because it would help out more people.” The Lions Gate Hospital has since renamed the South Acute Tower the Paul Myers Tower in his honour.
Don’t have millions to give to your local hospital? Don’t worry – you don’t have to have deep pockets to donate. Think about a cause you care about, contact your local hospital, or a health care centre that specializes in your area of interest, and open your pocketbook. Every little bit helps.