Image: Bloorview Kids Rehab InteriorImage: Smiling ChildImage: Child with red clown nose

About Bloorview

Bloorview History

Though there are many chapters to the evolving narrative of Bloorview Kids Rehab, the heart of the story revolves around a shared spirit of quiet determination and compassion, community and vision. For over the past 100-plus years, this facility has emerged as one of the most vital children’s rehabilitation centres in Canada.

Bloorview Kids Rehab; new facility opened in 2006

Through its many incarnations and locations through the years – and especially seeing what it has become today with our new world-class facility – the success of Bloorview reflects the contributions large and small of those who realized the importance of such a facility. But it was thanks to a group who, in the late nineteenth century, decided to make their vision a reality; to, as it were, turn disability into possibility.

In 1899, 22 women gathered for tea one afternoon to discuss the establishment of a facility dedicated solely to the care children with  chronic illness and physical disability. This was not your average group of women. Eighteen of those in attendance were founding members of The Hospital for Sick Children, with the President of the group being Mrs. C.S. Gzowski.

The Home for Incurable Children

This group referred to themselves as the “Ladies Committee”, and they envisioned opening a facility that could care for chronically ill, physically handicapped children. It didn’t take long for matters to evolve as come December 16, 2021 – with the help of public contributions, donations of furniture and a two-year rent-free agreement for a home at 138 Avenue Road, thanks to the offer put forth by Mr. and Mrs. G.A. Cox – the “Home for Incurable Children” opened its doors, ready to accommodate 15 children.

152 Bloor Street East

It didn’t take long for the board to realize that the demand for admittance outpaced capacity in the home. By 1907, the board purchased a larger property at 152 Bloor St. East where 26 children could live.

Sustaining the home in those early years demanded tight purse strings and a reliance on the generosity of others. (This level of community support helped define the support that the home enjoyed from early on, and is one of the enduring legacies that has been passed along through the generations). However, the administration managed to not only keep the facility running, but also give the children the opportunity to advance their education. In 1912, the Toronto School Board appointed a teacher to work with the children for two hours every day. By 1921, the Board granted funding for a full-day class, the morning devoted to academics and the afternoons focusing on crafts. In 1934, the Home’s school became an auxiliary of Rosedale Public School.

The 1930s also featured the construction of the long-awaited Nurses’ Residence which put the staff in much more comfortable quarters on the grounds of the Home rather than off-site, down Jarvis St. It was around this period that the Home adopted an additional name that more appropriately captured the spirit of the facility: “The House of Happiness”. As the Home’s Medical Supervisor, Dr. Maynard, once remarked, “There are more smiles to the square foot in this place than in any other I know.” 

Ontario Crippled Children's Centre

The 1950s marked a period of expansion in the Home thanks to a significant bequest by Mrs. Emma Vincent Campbell. This allowed space for more residents (now numbering 40), but more importantly, the renovation of the main building established room for occupational, physical and speech therapies. A new auditorium doubled as a classroom and an additional classroom and “rumpus room” were developed – this new wing named the “Maude N. Addition” in recognition of Mrs. Gooderham’s many years of contributing to the Board.

Clearly, the model of what Bloorview has become today started to be shaped with the addition of these in-house services. Soon, more physicians – who were also on staff at Sick Kids – were being appointed to help out on an ongoing basis, lending their expertise in such fields as Orthopedics, Genito-Urinary, General Surgery, Plastic Surgery and Dermatology. Consultants in Psychiatry and Psychology were also appointed.

The 1950s also saw the establishment of a facility that would play a part in the future evolution of the Home. The establishment of the Ontario Crippled Children’s Centre at 350 Rumsey Road occurred in 1957. It was during this era (1959), too, that the Home’s name was changed to “Bloorview Hospital, Home and School.” Four years later that would be shortened to Bloorview Children’s Hospital.

It was during this era that the hospital’s reputation as a teaching facility grew. With its emphasis on habilitation for every child, the residents underwent medical, physical and psychological examinations to better determine how medical staff could improve the lives of these children. Practical on-site training at this facility became a standard for both the University of Toronto’s Combined Course in Physiotherapy as well as Occupational Therapy. The Nightingale School of Nursing also attended classes at Bloorview every year.

Bloorview Children's Hospital

To help address concerns about the larger social needs of these children, the Hospital hired its first social service worker to start working with children and families. As well, the appointment of a Urologist and Orthopedic Surgeon meant more treatment could be offered on-site rather than outpatient visits to acute care hospitals.  More significantly, as the sixties drew to a close, the Hospital identified a parcel of land on Sheppard Avenue, east of Leslie on Buchan Court, that would become the new location for Bloorview Children’s Hospital in 1975.

This new facility continued to expand the range of services that Bloorview provided, including a 12-bed infant unit, a unit for adolescents and young adults as well as education up to entry level into secondary school thanks to the ten classroom Bloorview School, adjoining the facility.

By this time, the Hospital was gaining recognition as one of the primary facilities of its kind in Canada. As its reputation grew, so too did its program mix. Come the 1980s the Hospital initiated a Respite Care Program, allowing parents who cared for their children at home a much-needed break from their duties on occasion. Along the same lines, independence training and life skills programs that focused on preparing residents for community living were developed. The Bloorview Nursery School opened in 1982, successfully integrating Bloorview pre-schoolers with able-bodied children from the community.

Hugh MacMillan Rehabilitation Centre

During the mid-80s the Ontario Crippled Children’s Centre was renamed the Hugh MacMillan Medical Centre, after its first administrator whose determination to deal with his own disability in a progressive way was an inspiration to all the parents and children who entered the facility. It was this Centre (which would, for a few years, be called the Hugh MacMillan Rehabilitation Centre) that would eventually amalgamate with Bloorview Children’s Hospital to become the Bloorview MacMillan Centre, the name of the facility before the renaming of the current Bloorview Kids Rehab.

Of course, a number of other facilities and organizations have also contributed – both directly and indirectly – to what Bloorview has become today. These include The Easter Seal Society, The Variety Children's Charity and The Christie Street Hospital.

Over the past generation, what is now Bloorview Kids Rehab has continued to foster its mandate of providing the most comprehensive services to children with disabilities and complex health needs and their families. The growth and influence of the facility to this point has been remarkable – as remarkable as the countless successes that have emerged in step with Bloorview’s evolution. As Bloorview looks ahead to the next hundred years, the prospects of enabling and improving the lives of many will continue to be told, quite certainly, one story at a time.

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