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Stories: Alex's dad is giving back

Justine, 5 (left), injured in a ski accident in March, blossomed in the artist-run Spiral Garden, a camp supported by Bloorview's fundraising campaign.

Daughter's legacy spurs investment banker to lead hospital's most ambitious fundraising campaign

Dougal Macdonald jets around the world helping companies manage mergers and acquisitions.

But as voluntary chair of the most ambitious fundraising campaign in Bloorview’s 105-year history, it’s his private story of parenting a child with disabilities that counts.

“Our daughter, Alexandra, was born with a genetic disability and died from renal failure at the age of seven,” says the managing director of investment banking at Morgan Stanley. “Alex had complex needs. As a family, a critical point of support for us was the loving care she received through respite services at Bloorview when we needed a break. ”

It’s this firsthand experience that resonates with donors, Dougal says, as he helps the teaching hospital kick off a $150-million investment in children’s rehab with the construction of a new building and the launch of a childhood disability research institute.

Next month, a campaign to raise $45 million in the private sector will be launched by Bloorview Kids Foundation.

Under the theme Help us defy disability, “we’re raising money to move from being a provincial centre of excellence to an international one that empowers and enables children,” says Valerie McMurtry, foundation president.

The fundraising – which covers building, program and research costs – began in 2002, and the foundation expects to hit its target next year. “We’ve raised $32 million, so we’re 70 per cent of the way there,” Valerie says. “That tells the community that we’re in the home stretch and we need their support to get to the finish line.”

The new 343,000 square feet children’s rehab hospital – which will bring two current sites under one roof – exceeds most Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards and has been designed, according to lead architect Terry Montgomery, to create “the atmosphere of a retreat within the city. For the child transferred here from an acute-care hospital, we wanted to create a restful, welcoming atmosphere that connects the building with the surrounding ravine, has lots of natural light and is made up of a series of places that have character and personality.”

The Ontario government has contributed $60.5 million to the $100-million building.
Dougal is one of many parent volunteers supporting Bloorview’s campaign. When approaching potential donors, he likes to share his personal story – and those of other families – “to make people understand that disability can happen to any family,” he says. “I think there’s a misconception that the hospital just serves children with congenital disabilities. Yet if a child has an accident on the playing field or is run down by a car playing ball hockey, while the first port of call will be Sick Kids, they may very well spend more time at Bloorview in rehabilitation. One of the reasons I joined the campaign is that I think Bloorview is less well known and broadly supported than it should be, given the immensely important services it provides. The notion that a hospital also has a school, social workers, a gym, recreation activities and engineers who develop prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and other devices, is something that most people are not aware of. Bringing donors here is most compelling because they can see that the objective is to allow children, whether they have congenital or acquired disabilities, to live life to the fullest.”

To be connected with expert sources, contact:

Louise Kinross, Manager, Communications
Tel: 416-424-3866
Pager: 416-589-8826
E-mail: media at bloorview dot ca

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