In 1975, when Michael Garron was 13 years old and dying of a rare form of soft tissue cancer, his final wish was that he not be forgotten.
His parents, Myron and Berna Garron, promised him that wouldn’t happen. On Dec. 2, they donated $50 million to the Toronto East General Hospital (TEGH) in his memory, and made Michael’s wish come true.
In honour of this gift, TEGH has been renamed the Michael Garron Hospital, and is now part of the Toronto East Health Network. In a press release, TEGH said the Garrons’ gift was the largest charitable donation ever made to a community teaching hospital in Canada. Michael Burns, chair of the TEGH Foundation board of directors, spoke at a press conference last Wednesday.
“If you’re lucky, once in lifetime a truly extraordinary philanthropic gesture transforms an institution and care for thousands of people,” he said. “We are humbled and beyond grateful that our hospital is in receipt of such a remarkable and historic gesture.”
Myron and Berna Garron first became acquainted with the services at TEGH in 1962, as residents of East York; that’s when their first child, Michael, was born at the hospital. At last week’s donation announcement, Myron Garron recalled that he’d missed his son’s actual birth because he was busy filling out paperwork elsewhere in the hospital. By the time he made it upstairs, the doctor was waiting for him.
“He had a little bundle in his arms,” Myron Garron remembered. “That was the first appearance of Michael Albert Garron.”
Having lived through the experience of losing their son to cancer at such a young age, Myron and Berna Garron came to know the range of health services at TEGH and the hospital’s diverse patient community. The Garrons’ relationship with TEGH as donors began almost three and a half years ago, when they met Dr. Rajiv Singal, a urologist and member of the TEGH Foundation Board; they were also then introduced to the doctor’s work in robot technology. They invested $250,000 in this technology and formed a strong friendship with the hospital and Dr. Singal.
“Over time, the Garrons have come to understand the unique and special things that are done here at the hospital,” the doctor said, “and have progressively looked to ways to support that with their generosity.”
At the donation announcement, Sarah Downey, president and CEO of TEGH, explained that the hospital delivers health care to the entire east end of Toronto; that catchment area includes Thorncliffe Park, which has the highest birth rate in the city, as well as Flemingdon Park, which has the highest concentration of senior residents.
“We serve the greatest number of low-income Torontonians of any hospitals in this region, and we serve four of 10 at-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto,” she said.
The Garrons’ donation will allow TEGH to purchase much-needed medical equipment, help create the first chair and research positions to recruit medical talent, and fund research for clinical innovation. CEO Downey cited the purchase of a new CT scanner as an immediate benefit of the donation.
“Equipment that’s very close to the patients is (the Garrons’) vision of this gift,” Downey said. “Things that get in the hands of our doctors and nurses to make patients’ lives better.”
Dr. Singal said that that Garrons’ gift had two objectives: to support the hospital and its ambitious care, and to create a legacy for their son, Michael Garron.
“From a medical staff side, for me personally, after 20 years of work, to see that somebody would actually believe in such a vision, is so gratifying,” the doctor said.
Foundation chair Burns said this donation will be a catalyst for more giving, and will help expand the health network in the east end of Toronto.
“It’s a game-changer for us,” Burns said. “We’re excited about what the future holds.”