Donor spotlight
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Donor spotlight

Sunnybrook Foundation is very thankful to have so many supportive donors. Our donor spotlight is a place to recognize just a few of these supporters and to tell their amazing stories.

Ajmera Family

The immense generosity of the Ajmera family has been the driving force behind the future Soham & Shaila Ajmera Family Prostate Centre at Sunnybrook.

The Ajmeras have a long been supporters of Sunnybrook, and are grateful for the life-saving care they have received here.

“It’s the place where our entire family has been taken care of,” says Soham, who, along with his sons, founded one of Canada’s leading commercial bakeries, called fgf brands.

Dr. Robert Nam, head of the Odette Cancer Program’s Genitourinary Cancer Care Team, has been essential to that care. The Ajmeras’ trust in Dr. Nam and their respect for him as a doctor and scientist continued to grow over time, prompting them to endow the Soham & Shaila Ajmera Family Chair in Urologic Oncology, which is held by Dr. Nam. He will also be the inaugural medical director of the prostate centre.

“Dr. Nam has done a tremendous amount of innovative research that has changed the understanding and treatment of prostate cancer,” Soham says.

The Ajmera family’s philanthropy is motivated by their desire to fulfill a need in the community. As the most common cancer among men, prostate cancer touches the lives of many Canadians. In fact, one in eight Canadian men will have prostate cancer in their lifetime.

The Soham & Shaila Ajmera Family Prostate Centre will be the foremost of its kind in Canada, where groundbreaking research, advanced diagnostic techniques and precision treatments will save men’s lives and how they live them.

“God has been gracious with us and given us the ability to give back to the community, so this is our way of saying thank you,” Soham says.

BMO Financial Group

BMO Financial Group has a long-standing tradition of generosity. Committed to improving quality of life in the communities where employees live and work, BMO’s desire to give back is deep-rooted, beginning with its first health-care donation in 1835.

In supporting the Soham & Shaila Ajmera Family Prostate Centre, BMO Financial Group is continuing its legacy of visionary philanthropy. As the centre’s lead corporate donor, its support allows Sunnybrook’s world-class prostate cancer care team to conduct groundbreaking research, pioneer advanced diagnostic techniques, and use precision treatments to change outcomes for men with prostate cancer.

A dedicated benefactor of Sunnybrook, BMO Financial Group has previously invested in the hospital’s Trauma, Emergency and Critical Care Program. Its sponsorship has also been integral to the success of the Argyle Affair and the Argyle Cup, which benefits the Sunnybrook Research Institute.

Peter Cipriano

Peter Cipriano donating to Sunnybrook
As Peter Cipriano’s parents grew elderly and were treated at Sunnybrook for multiple medical conditions, he came to appreciate the holistic approach the hospital’s geriatricians brought to their care.

“I found it incredibly stressful dealing with the complexity of my parents’ health issues,” Peter says. “It helped to ease my worries to know they had a geriatrician looking after them. I’m truly grateful for that resource.”

In appreciation, Peter has become a passionate supporter of Sunnybrook’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and has encouraged his community and business colleagues to lend their support as well.

Peter is president of the Irpinia Club of Toronto, which celebrates the rich diversity of Italian culture in Canada. Since 2012, proceeds from the club’s Summer Picnic and Ballo Autunnale events have supported geriatric medicine at Sunnybrook. Peter also donates personally. In 2015, he added $295,000 of his funds to the events’ proceeds, bringing their combined contribution to an impressive $500,000. Peter’s efforts have resulted in more than $900,000 invested into geriatric medicine at Sunnybrook since 2012.

Peter’s generosity has enabled Sunnybrook to renovate and refurbish two exam rooms, which now offer quiet, comfortable environments for patients and their families. His annual investments also allowed us to expand our unique fellowship training program for hospitalists (physicians who care for patients in hospital). All hospitalist fellows now train in geriatric medicine, meaning they return to work in hospitals across Canada and around the globe with an understanding of the complex health problems and unique needs of the elder population.

In addition, Peter’s support is helping us to create a new geriatric oncology fellowship, linked to Sunnybrook’s new breast cancer clinic for women over 70. Bringing the lens of geriatric medicine to these patients will enhance care, as elderly women often have existing medical issues that can interact with their cancer and affect treatments.

With Peter’s leadership and generosity, Sunnybrook is inventing the future of health care for the elderly and their families, here and far beyond our walls.

Nermine Elgammal

Dedicated Sunnybrook donor hopes to inspire others to give with her 2015 Giving Tuesday Matching Gift Challenge

In 2014, Nermine Elgammal attended one of our Sunnybrook events, which introduced attendees to the supportive care services currently being offered to patients and their families at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre.

Dr. Calvin Law, chief of Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Program spoke about how essential comprehensive supportive care is for cancer patients and their families; “Effective care for people with cancer is about more than treating tumours. It’s about caring for the whole person, promoting resilience and reducing the risk of distress and disability. One of the Odette Cancer Program’s strategic priorities is to enable innovative, high-quality patient and family-centred care at every stage of the cancer journey. Community support to build a new Patient & Family Supportive Care Centre will help us achieve this.”

Since the event Nermine has learned even more about how the renovation and expansion of the Odette Cancer Centre’s supportive care facilities will create a more comfortable and inviting space, and wants to inspire more community support allowing for the expansion of services that are already being offered.

Inspired by Dr. Law’s deep passion, and knowledge about the benefits of building this new space, Nermine has generously created a special Giving Tuesday Matching Gift Challenge with hopes of inspiring others to donate with her. “By establishing a $25,000 matching gift it means I am able to double the meaningful support of others, providing Dr. Law and his team with the funds required to create a space that meets the evolving needs of patients and their families.”

Kathy Clough

The Brides' project

Kathy Clough (left) and Dr. Sonal Gandhi (right)

Last fall, Kathy Clough and her medical oncologist, Sunnybrook’s Dr. Sonal Gandhi, made a deal: “We promised each other that I was going to make it to my birthday on May 21st,” recalls Kathy.

“And we did it!”

Diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer eight years ago, Kathy is now receiving end-of-life care. Celebrating her 65th birthday this spring was a milestone she was focused on achieving — with Dr. Gandhi’s help. “Sunnybrook and its team led by Dr. Gandhi have done a wonderful job of keeping my quality of life very high so I could continue to work and enjoy every day.”

To say thank you, Kathy decided to host a very special fundraiser on her birthday.

She invited 67 family members and friends to join the Dine & Discover evening, an exclusive dinner with one of Sunnybrook’s top researchers at Toronto’s North 44, a restaurant owned by renowned chef Mark McEwan. McEwan founded the Dine & Discover program in 2012 to help purchase the most advanced equipment and recruit the best minds to Sunnybrook.

Kathy’s dinner featured Dr. Gandhi and raised more than $50,000 — double Kathy’s goal. In addition to support from participating friends, the event included a generous contribution from Kathy’s former employer, Montreal’s PWL Capital. The company’s investment helped to offset the cost of the dinners, so that every additional dollar raised could benefit Sunnybrook.

“It was quite phenomenal,” Kathy exclaims.

The funds raised will help support development of a personalized guide for cancer patients. Dr. Gandhi is currently piloting the information resource, which will help patients maximize the effectiveness of oral anti-cancer drugs at home. Dr. Gandhi is also developing an online, multimedia resource, where women with locally advanced breast cancer can gain a comprehensive understanding of their cancer and their treatments, something Kathy agrees would have been beneficial to her eight years ago. ”It will ensure women have access to the information that is most relevant to their situation, rather than one of 11,000 hits on Google.”

To top off an already memorable birthday, Kathy received a gift of flowers two weeks after the event, along with a special wish from Dr. Gandhi: “Let’s keep fighting,” it read.

Kathy plans to do just that.

The Brides’ Project

The Brides' project

Molly Gillan, Helen Sweet and Katie Mosher
Image courtesy of Grayson Lee Photography

Ten years ago, Helen Sweet felt daunted as she prepared for her wedding. She was frustrated by the emphasis on excess and spending so much for just one day.

“My sensibilities kicked in and I thought, “well this doesn’t really make much sense,’” says Helen.

It got Helen thinking – how can we reuse bridal items and benefit society in the process? That is how The Brides’ Project got started.

From its location in a Victorian house on Broadview Avenue, The Brides’ Project sells donated wedding dresses, veils and shoes at half the garments’ retail value, with all proceeds going to cancer programs and charities – including Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Program.

Tucked into many of the wedding gowns are notes written by the dress’s previous owner. Often these notes include well wishes and personal stories. Helen says the tradition conveys the emotional attachment to each donated dress.

“We encourage people to do it, partly because it passes on part of the great karma from one wedding to the next,” says Helen.

Most of the brides and volunteers at The Brides’ Project have a direct connection to cancer, including Helen. At the age of nine, she lost her best friend to bone cancer. The Brides’ Project is a tribute to her childhood friend and other loved ones who have been touched by cancer.

In the last five years, The Brides’ Project has grown significantly, from raising just under $20,000 in 2009 to over $100,000 in 2013. Helen says much of that momentum is due to word of mouth and the dedication of her volunteers.

So far, the Brides’ Project has raised over $25,000 for the Odette Cancer Program. Those funds are going towards the creation of a Patient & Family Supportive Care Centre, where cancer patients will have access to programs that treat the whole person, not just the disease. This multidisciplinary centre will help patients and their families cope with and overcome personal challenges related to mental health, spirituality, disability, finances, and more.

“Many of our clientele have been patients at Sunnybrook and have been able to benefit from the programs offered there,” says Helen. “It has a great reputation, not just in the community but across the country.”

Cobble Beach June Classic

Cobble Beach June Classic

Cobble Beach June Classic

It started off as a fun golfing weekend with the guys, but over the past seven years Geoffrey and Stephen McLeese have turned the Cobble Beach June Classic into a successful fundraising event for prostate cancer research.

Though prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men, the McLeese twin brothers felt more could be done to help the fight.

“Our grandfather, Dick McLaughlin, had prostate cancer and is a one of the inspirations for the golf tournament,” says Geoffrey.

Sunnybrook’s prostate cancer program is home to Canada’s leading experts in the field. We opened Canada’s first rapid results service for prostate biopsies, meaning results are provided within 72 hours, compared to the standard wait of two to three weeks.

With the help of donors and events like the Cobble Beach June Classic, Sunnybrook will open a state-of-the-art Prostate Centre, where our doctors will test out the newest treatments and provide the most advanced care for patients.

“The guys understand that this work is important,” says Stephen, “and that’s one of the great things about the people in this tournament.”

The fee to enter the Cobble Beach June Classic includes a donation to Sunnybrook, but most people raise much more.

In 2013 and 2014, the Cobble Beach June Classic tournament has raised $48,000 for Sunnybrook’s prostate cancer program. The first time the McLeese brothers held the event it raised around $300.

The McLeese brothers credit their eight board members and seven dedicated sponsors for the event’s success. For the first six years of the event, City Buick has donated a car that’s up for grabs on the 17th hole. In 2014, Hamilton Audi took over this role which always adds to the allure of the event. The other equally notable sponsors are Middleton Group Inc. which continues to provide signage for the event, RBC Dominion Securities, Molson’s and Citizen Watch.

Then there’s Cobble Beach Golf Resort, located just outside of Owen Sound overlooking beautiful Georgian Bay. Every year Cobble Beach hosts the event and provides prizes for the tournament.

Geoffrey and Stephen have created a weekend getaway that supports a great cause, and most participants come back year after year.

“It’s an experience,” says Stephen. “There is a sort of brotherhood attached to this event.”

Caryl Sinclair, Kilgour Society

Caryl Sinclair, Kilgour Society

Caryl Sinclair, Kilgour Society

Donors who plan legacy gifts to Sunnybrook become members of the Kilgour Society. As one of the society’s founding members, Caryl Sinclair’s connections to Sunnybrook are deep and long-standing.

Caryl remembers visiting as a girl, not long after Sunnybrook Hospital opened in 1948. Her father was being treated for injuries suffered in the Second World War.

“I was awed by the large brown edifice and the wide stone staircase of what is now C wing,” she recalls. “Inside, the halls seemed to stretch forever and the wards were open, with rows and rows of metal beds filled with veterans waiting for family from whom they had been separated for so long.

“In the decades that followed, my mother, my father and my husband were patients at Sunnybrook. I became familiar with every part of the hospital and deeply appreciative of the care and treatment they received. Each of their lives eventually came to a close in the hospital, in an air of dignity, respect and serenity.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was my turn at Sunnybrook. Over 18 months, I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I was treated with professional expertise, and careful and thoughtful planning in an atmosphere of inclusion, support and encouragement for which I am deeply grateful.”

Caryl and her husband Walter named Sunnybrook in their wills “as a legacy of gratitude. I continue to do this now to honour my husband’s memory and that of my parents, in tribute to the care we received at Sunnybrook and in support of future patients and their families.”

The Kilgour Society is named in honour of Alice Kilgour and her heirs, who donated the land on which Sunnybrook was built. Today’s Kilgour Society members continue that generous tradition of legacy gifts.

For information on the Kilgour Society, contact or call 416-480-6100, ext. 89328.

Slaight Family Foundation

The Slaight family has become as renowned in the world of philanthropy as it is in the broadcasting world - a considerable achievement given the family built the largest privately-owned radio network in Canada.

The Slaight family has made many generous donations benefitting health-care institutions, the arts and youth. The Slaight Family Foundation's latest investment in Sunnybrook is its largest to this institution.

The $10-million gift, made in October 2013, established The Slaight Centre for Image-Guided Brain Therapy and Repair at Sunnybrook, which will conduct the first-ever clinical trials of revolutionary treatments for dementia, stroke and brain tumours.

With the Slaight Centre's creation, and the purchase of a fully integrated molecular imaging system (a PET-MRI scanner), Sunnybrook scientists will move promising research from the laboratory to patients, using image-guided focused ultrasound to bypass the blood-brain barrier and deliver therapies directly to the brain.

 "Sunnybrook has the unique medical expertise and technological know-how to bring these treatments to people but this cannot be done without the acquisition of a state-of-the-art PET-MRI scanner. Our family foundation is thrilled to be making this a reality," said Gary Slaight.

"Giving back to the community has always been important to the entire Slaight family, including my wife Donna, my parents, Ada and Allan Slaight as well as to Emmanuelle Gattuso-Slaight. We're fortunate to be in a position where we can help," adds Gary.  "We hope we will be an inspiration for others who are able to support the community around them."

The family's most recent investment in Sunnybrook came as part of a comprehensive $50-million gift to five health sciences centres in Toronto that will make a life-saving difference for people locally and around the world, in areas including maternity care, emergency medicine, youth mental health and diseases of the brain.

Establishing the Slaight Centre at Sunnybrook compliments the family's 2010 gift, in which Ada Slaight, Gary's mother and The Slaight Family Foundation donated $1.5 million to aid the construction of Sunnybrook's Brain Imaging Research Centre (BIRC) and to create The Slaight Family Foundation Brain Sciences Fellowship.

BIRC plays a vital role in research on diverse neurodegenerative mood disorders, stroke and brain trauma, using a variety of imaging technologies to visualize the brain and its blood supply. Meanwhile, the multidisciplinary fellowship provides stable funding for Sunnybrook researchers as they advance the world's understanding of brain disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.

"The Slaight family's impact on Sunnybrook - on the health of Canadians - has been extraordinary," says Dr. Barry McLellan, president and CEO of Sunnybrook. "And their impact extends far beyond health care, benefitting many facets of the community."

Leslie family offers support to specialized cancer clinic

David Leslie and his family stand outside the newly named Susan Leslie Clinic for Neuroendocrine Tumours

David Leslie (centre) and his family stand outside the newly named Susan Leslie Clinic for Neuroendocrine Tumours. The family’s investment in the clinic will further its comprehensive care and research.

Sunnybrook's leading neuroendocrine cancer clinic has been named the Susan Leslie Clinic for Neuroendocrine Tumours in recognition of the generous support provided by past Sunnybrook Board Chair David Leslie and his family.  

Already Canada's largest and most comprehensive clinic for care and research into these especially challenging cancers, the Susan Leslie Clinic will be bolstered by the Leslie family's investment.

"Often individuals newly diagnosed with these complex and lesser understood tumours feel rudderless as they may not have a clear treatment plan or pathway of care. David's gift will help us support these individuals," says cancer surgeon Dr. Calvin Law, who co-leads the clinic and is head of the Odette Cancer Program's Gastrointestinal Cancer Care Team.

"Our collaborative multidisciplinary care team fully understands neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) to provide tailored treatment," adds medical oncologist Dr. Simron Singh, the clinic's other co-leader.

The clinic honours David's wife, Susan, who passed away as a result of a neuroendocrine cancer in 2009. Susan spent many years under the expert care of Dr. Law, Dr. Georg Bjarnason and subsequently Dr. Singh, as well as many other health-care professionals at the Odette Cancer Centre. The team's specialization with neuroendocrine cancers added significantly to the care Susan received.

"David, Susan and their family have been tremendous supporters of Sunnybrook for years. David has given his time as hospital Board Chair and invested resources toward our care and research. I am deeply grateful, as is the entire Sunnybrook community," says Dr. Barry McLellan, Sunnybrook's president and CEO.

Neuroendocrine or carcinoid tumours are a group of varied malignancies whose early symptoms are often misdiagnosed. Flushing or becoming markedly red in the face in older women is often attributed to menopause and chronic diarrhea may be attributed to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Though less common, the incidence of NETs is on the rise.

The Susan Leslie Clinic for Neuroendocrine Tumours offers a unique care approach. Multi-modal treatment plans are discussed with patients as they simultaneously see Dr. Law (surgery), Dr. Singh (medical oncology), Dr. Hans Chung (radiation oncology) and a specialized cancer nurse. Other members of the care team include Dr. Laurent Milot (abdominal radiology) and Dr. Corwyn Rowsell (gastrointestinal-dedicated pathology). 

The care offered at the clinic is personalized not only by the type of treatment but also by the sequence of treatments. Multi-modal care might involve complex liver surgery, a liver embolization or procedure to block or reduce blood flow to cancer cells in the liver, tailored hormonal therapies before and after surgery, specialized chemotherapy or targeted radioactive particles. 

Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association

Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association with SantaThanks to the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters' Association, Sunnybrook's Ross Tilley Burn Centre will soon be equipped with new devices to monitor burn patient status more effectively.

"As firefighters, we see the devastation fire causes and we want to help mitigate that as much as possible," says Ed Kennedy, association president. "It's a long journey for people who have been injured by fire and we want to help not just at the scene, but also at the hospital."

The association has donated more than $600,000 to Sunnybrook over the past several years, including $40,000 to the Ross Tilley Burn Centre last December. The gift covers the cost of pur-chasing two pulse contour cardiac output (PiCCO) devices, novel monitoring equipment that measures crucial data regarding heart rate, heart function and vascular status via a non-invasive method (thermo dilution).

"The PiCCO enables information flow," says Dr. Marc Jeschke, medical director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre. "It's like flying an airplane. Flying successfully and safely means knowing the

data and what's going on around you."

Dr. Jeschke credits community support for helping to deliver comprehensive care at the burn centre, which has seen the number of patients it treats annually rise to about 250 from 150.

"None of this would have been possible without donor support," Dr. Jeschke says. "We are very grateful for the firefighters' generosity."

The association also donated $17,500 to Sunnybrook's Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre in December. The centre, which will open in April, will provide expanded facilities for breast cancer care, including rapid breast cancer diagnosis, and allow greater collaboration in research and clinical trials.

Michael and Marilena Latifi, and the Sofina & Amici Golf Classic

Michael and Marilena Latifi
Michael and Marilena Latifi

It started as a golf tournament and grew into a gift of more than $1 million toward care for Ontario's tiniest patients.

The Sofina & Amici Golf Classic, hosted since 2008 by Sofina Foods Inc., has raised more than $1.2 million for Sunnybrook's state-of-the-art Women & Babies facility, which opened in September 2010.

"I am indebted to my family, friends and loyal suppliers who generously support our initiative year after year," says Michael Latifi, Sofina chairman and CEO. "It is through their support that we have been able to deliver beyond all our expectations."

The tournament was started with a goal of raising $50,000 each year. It turned out to be a hit from the start, raising over $200,000 in 2008 alone. The secret has been treating participants to a day beyond their expectations. Tournament organizers stayed true to their mission to make this an over-the-top day of indulgence, never compromising on details or the small touches that make the tournament a unique experience for our guests.

"This kind of private support is needed if Sunnybrook is to accomplish its goals," says Dr. Jon S. Dellandrea, Sunnybrook Foundation's president and CEO. "We're very grateful for Sofina, for the Sofina & Amici Golf Classic and for everyone who's ever swung a golf club at this tournament. Each and every participant is truly having an impact on the care we offer our patients."

Liam MacInnis

Liam MacInnis
Liam MacInnis

Liam MacInnis remembers when his grandmother lost her battle to cancer more than six years ago.

"She had a bunch of cancers," he says. "It was really sad for me; I was in junior kindergarten."

Now in Grade 6, the 11-year-old Stouffville, Ont. boy is feeling much better, especially after donating $150 to Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre in honour of "Grandma MacInnis" and Danny Kyriazis, a good friend of his parents. Both were Sunnybrook patients.

Danny died of cancer two weeks after Liam's birthday on Aug. 2. The two never met.

For his birthday party, Liam asked for donations from friends instead of gifts. It's something his brother, Nolan, 12, did a year ago when he donated to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.

"So I wanted to do that, too," Liam says. "My friends were a little surprised that I didn't want gifts, but they thought it was a good idea. I hope the money will go to help people with cancer and make their lives better."

Liam's mother, Karen Smiley-MacInnis, says the kids who came to the party were great.

"A few parents told me they thought it was a very selfless cause," she says, adding their school's focus last year was "Make a Difference", which also saw Liam organizing a bracelet sale at his hockey tournament in March to raise money for Free the Children.

Liam says he really likes raising money for charities and hopes to do more in the future.

Louise and Jim Temerty

Jim and Louise Temerty
Louise and Jim Temerty

Sunnybrook will be home to Canada's largest breast cancer centre in April 2013, thanks to a transformational $10-million gift from Jim and Louise Temerty.

The gift establishes the Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre, which will house Sunnybrook's leading-edge Breast Program. The centre's Rapid Diagnosis Unit will offer potential breast cancer patients a diagnosis and treatment plan within just 24 hours of assessment, eliminating current wait times of up to six weeks for such life-saving answers.

"Breast cancer patients have traditionally been put through a terrible waiting period for results. That wait can wear a person down - but not anymore," says Jim Temerty. "The Rapid Diagnosis Unit will diagnose women quickly so they can get started on treatment early. This centre is going to save lives, and I'm proud to play a role in its creation."

The need for top-notch - and fast - breast cancer care in Ontario resonates strongly with the Temerty family. Louise had accompanied a close friend to her many breast cancer treatments, often spending the day with her at Sunnybrook, and says that waiting for answers was often the hardest part.

Thanks to the family's support, the centre will revolutionize breast cancer care, imaging and research in Canada. The centre's Breast Program - the largest in the country - will provide tailored programming to a diverse patient population.

Max Rother

Max Rother
Max Rother

After a skating mishap sent Max Rother to Sunnybrook's emergency department with a broken wrist, the then-13-year-old decided it may be a worthy place to donate a portion of his bar mitzvah gifts.

"It's tradition to give away a portion of the gifts you receive, and I was thinking of a good cause to support," Max says.
And when he checked out and learned that our trauma department is raising funds to put a helipad on the roof of M-Wing, he knew it was the right place to lend his support.

"I really enjoy aviation as a hobby and hope to make it a career," Max says. "I love to watch the helicopters and sometimes ride my bike over to see them land and take off."

Right now, our helipad is located about 500 metres away from the trauma room. Paramedics and trauma staff have to coordinate with a land ambulance to transfer patients from the helicopter to the trauma room. This adds about 10 minutes to treating a medical crisis where every second counts.

Sunnybrook's plan is to build a state-of-the-art helipad on top of the hospital. Once in service, patients will be transferred from the roof to the trauma room via an elevator, providing our trauma teams with more time to save lives.

The project is being funded entirely by generous donors like Max, who gave $2,000 earlier this year.

"This helipad will save lives and it will help a lot of people," he says. "I know how important this is."

Frederick W. Thompson

Frederick W. Thompson
Frederick W. Thompson

Sunnybrook will offer specialized obsessive compulsive disorder care not found anywhere else in Canada, thanks to a transformational $10-million gift from Toronto businessman Frederick W. Thompson.

"It's unfortunate that mental health doesn't get enough attention, because it's important that people have the best support possible," said Mr. Thompson.

The gift - the largest ever private donation to anxiety disorders with a focus on OCD - will be used to establish the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre at Sunnybrook, which will help patients recover from often-debilitating disorders with dignity. Patients will receive multidisciplinary and compassionate care, and the centre will attract international experts to collaborate with Sunnybrook's world-class scientists.

Mr. Thompson says he looks forward to seeing the centre's impact on the world stage.

"I hope the centre helps create a greater awareness of these devastating disorders, opens doors in treatment that have so far remained closed due to lack of funding, and that it inspires people toward their own philanthropy," said Mr. Thompson.

"This gift makes a bold statement and represents a real turning point in the research and treatment of anxiety disorders - and for that we're very grateful," said Dr. Peggy Richter, director of Sunnybrook's Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders.

Philip Leong

Phillip Leong
Philip Leong, Jennifer Tory and Grace Leong

For Philip Leong, supporting Sunnybrook is an enormous thank you for a number of things. First, it recognizes the gratitude he feels for the care his son Clement received after being born prematurely 14 years ago. Clement was born three months early, weighed just 2 lbs. and spent considerable time in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“The nurses really cared about each baby’s important life, and they were very professional. I was so impressed by the care and by the professionalism by the doctors and the nurses,” says Leong. “They do more than just their job, and that’s important.”

But his $250,000-gift is also a thank you to Canada as a whole for providing Leong with a quality education and rewarding career after he moved here permanently from Macau, China, in 1987. Leong is now a vice-president and director with RBC Dominion Securities Inc. “It’s very simple,” explains Leong. “I just want to do my part as a citizen and be part of the community. I’m giving what humble contribution I can to allow the hospital to continue its service to the community.”

Leong has supported other health care and education institutions, as well as initiatives within Canada’s Chinese community. He says the exemplary care Sunnybrook provides for the province’s premature babies is a natural fit for his philanthropy. “I just want to show my support for Sunnybrook; every day there are premature babies receiving services here,” says Leong. “And Canada is a great country and has given me a lot of opportunity as an immigrant. It’s all about Canada.”

Honor Nivin

NivinHonor Nivin's connection to Sunnybrook goes back a long, long time.

As a young girl in the early 1950s, she remembers watching Princess Elizabeth (not yet queen) and Prince Philip as they travelled along Blythwood Road in an open convertible, waving to the crowds as they approached Sunnybrook Veterans Hospital for a royal visit.

Since then, the connection has grown. Honor's mother volunteered at Sunnybrook's gift shop in the 1960s and her father received prostate cancer care here. Honor, too, has been a Sunnybrook patient, overcoming breast cancer six years ago.

She has been a regular Sunnybrook volunteer for five years, coming here twice a week to lend her hand at the Odette Cancer Centre and outpatient surgery. "I enjoy it, and I feel good because of volunteering," Honor says.

For a variety of reasons, including her ongoing desire to help Sunnybrook patients and to honour her parents, she has chosen to donate to innovative research at Sunnybrook, in particular Dr. Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker's cutting-edge work with stem cells. Dr. Zúñiga-Pflücker and his team have developed a way to direct unspecified human stem cells into becoming progenitor (or early) T cells, which then give rise to mature T cells, an essential ingredient in immune system reconstitution.

Honor describes Dr. Zúñiga-Pflücker as an accomplished and talented scientist, adding that research is an area that needs more attention from donors.

Honor looks forward to continuing her involvement and watching Sunnybrook grow as a leading Canadian health sciences centre. "I'm always staggered by the number of people that are now being seen in this whole complex," she says.

Bren's Friends

When John Pludra set out to build a legacy for his wife Brenda Loder, he found she already had one -one of great friendship, strength and generosity.

When Brenda died in 2009 after a long battle with brain cancer, her mother Ruth wished aloud to John that there was something to carry on her memory. Due to complications of Brenda's illness, she and John were unable to have children.

After some discussion among close friends, it was decided they'd fundraise in Brenda's honour.

Friends of Brenda LoderSo "Bren's Friends" hosted garage sales, raffles and a pub night - Newfoundland-style in tribute to Brenda's home province - to raise money for brain cancer research.

In just one year, Bren's Friends collected nearly $40,000. The response overwhelmed John.

"One thing we learned in this process was just how much Brenda touched the lives of her friends and family," John said. "We pulled together for her memory and achieved in one year what we expected would take three. This spirit is Brenda's legacy."

The funds raised by Bren's Friends will support brain research at Sunnybrook under the direction of Dr. James Perry.

"We always had a warm welcome from the great team at Sunnybrook," John says. "This donation is also a way of saying thank you for everything they did during Brenda's illness - and for what they will be doing for those who will come through the doors of the hospital."

"But, there's nothing I would like more than to run into Dr. Perry in years to come, and have him tell me he had to retire early because no one gets sick from cancer anymore."

Gelato Cup Golf Tournament

The Gelato Cup Golf Tournament's pledge of $3 million toward our new rooftop helipad will mean critically ill and injured patients will reach our care sooner.

Gelato Cup Golf board of directorsThe members of the Gelato Cup Golf board of directors have set their sights high – way up on the roof of Sunnybrook, where the Gelato Cup Golf helipad will soon be built.

"When we heard that the current helipad is a half a kilometre away from the trauma room, we knew we had to step up and lend a hand," said Jim V. De Gasperis, one of the event's founders. "The Gelato Cup Golf helipad on the roof of the M-Wing will ensure that the most critically ill and injured patients in Ontario get the medical care they need as fast as possible."

The board has made a $3-million pledge to build the helipad, which will give trauma patients arriving by helicopter the best possible chance for survival. The new helipad will shave minutes off a trauma patient's journey where every second counts.

"We are so honoured and proud to make this landmark commitment to Sunnybrook," De Gasperis said. "Thanks to the support of the Gelato Cup Golf Tournament participants and sponsors, we will help Sunnybrook doctors and staff save lives."

The Gelato Cup Golf Tournament began over a decade ago. The popular event - known for its fabulous food and entertainment - has already raised more than $1 million and supported many Sunnybrook programs. This April, the Gelato Cup Golf Early Detection Centre welcomed its first patients.

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