The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s $500-million Campaign to Create Tomorrow passes $300-million mark

To be a guest at one of Peter Nicholson and Anabel Bane’s dinner parties is to experience the best in hospitality with just the right touch of ordinary life to keep the vibe feeling real.

The couple serves up huge home-cooked buffet meals of Filipino food, prepared with the help of Bane’s family and friends. Nicholson is always ready to greet arriving guests near the front door with his usual wide, welcoming smile.

The couple runs a busy household with six children of varying ages and a community of friends and relatives always coming and going. “So, throwing in a dinner party for 50 is not much of a stretch for us,” Nicholson told some four dozen people gathered at the private reception he and his wife hosted last night at their spacious home in Rockcliffe Park. 

The event was held for the express purpose of drawing attention to and raising support for The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s Campaign to Create Tomorrow. With a $500-million goal, it’s become the largest fundraising campaign in our city’s history, and one that promises to leave a lasting impression in the form of a $2.8-billion, top-tier health care facility.

Guests mingled over drinks and food, while entertained by live music, before being called together by Nicholson. He has an effective technique, by the way, for getting everybody’s attention: start singing the Happy Birthday song. 

Nicholson, who’s president and founder of Wealth Creation Preservation & Donation (WCPD), works in the philanthropy tax planning business. He’s also a father of six and a lead campaign donor with Bane, who’s managing director of business development at WCPD.

“I want a world-class hospital,” he told his guests. “I want it for my family, I want it for my friends, I want it for my employees, and I want it for my community in Ottawa.”

The campaign has passed the $300-million mark, it was announced by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s president and CEO, Tim Kluke, to approving applause.

“We have been humbled by the support from the community,” said Kluke before making special mention of prominent civic and business leader Roger Greenberg. He and his family, through Minto Group, have not only made the largest campaign donation of $25 million but Greenberg has been chairing the campaign with unrivaled dedication. “It’s been an absolute privilege,” Kluke said of working with Greenberg, whom he described as “one of the most committed volunteers” he’s known.

Of the new campus development, Kluke said: “This is the most important investment in health care in our lifetime. Full stop. There will not be a larger project that — for any of us in this room, perhaps for even your kids — will change healthcare the way this will.”

The new facility is slated to open in 2028. It will replace the aging Civic Campus, which opened in 1924 about a kilometre-plus to the west of where the new site is located. The community raised $3.5 million to build the original campus. “Here we are, 100 years later, with our opportunity to pay it forward for many generations,” said Kluke.

Helping to raise money for the new campus has been Dr. Pradeep Merchant, a member of the campaign executive and of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation board. He’s also site chief of the Division of Neonatology at the Civic Campus, respected member of the Indo-Canadian community, and a resident of Ottawa for almost 35 years. He, like Greenberg, is a member of the Order of Canada.

Merchant specializes in babies born ill or prematurely. The gathering was somewhat of a reunion for the neonatologist, who came to know Nicholson and Bane at The Ottawa Hospital when they faced a premature birth.

With more than 6,000 babies born at The Ottawa Hospital each year, the majority of newborn care in the region is handled there. The veteran doctor said he’s seen the survival rates of preemies improve over the past four decades from 20 percent to 90-plus percent. The Ottawa Hospital’s investment in new technology has played a major role, he said.

Merchant also spoke of how the brand-new facility will be much better designed to protect its tiny, fragile patients from infectious diseases during future outbreaks and pandemics, while also keeping them close to their mothers.

It was easy for Merchant to explain why he’s so passionate about fundraising for the new campus. “For me, this city has given me so much; this is my way of giving back,” he said of being part of a lasting legacy.

There will come a day, he acknowledged, when he will step away from clinical care. “I’m going to go with my head high, that I not only contributed everything that I wanted to contribute but, at the same time, set up a path for the next many generations to come.”

Finally, guests heard Joanne Read, executive vice president and chief planning and development officer for The Ottawa Hospital. She spoke of the “beehive of activity” that’s now happening along Carling Avenue, near Preston Street and Prince of Wales Drive, as work continues on the new parking garage.

“The first crane went up. I never thought I’d be excited to see a crane go up but I was excited to see a crane go up because this means progress is happening. It is happening.”

She also talked about the hospital’s goal to improve access to health care for the sickest of the sick. “It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are, we want to make sure that you have that access,” she said. “We also want to make sure that we’re rebuilding and reshaping the healthcare of the future.”

She promised a new campus that will be “the most modern, technologically advanced, accessible hospital” designed by experts but also with input from patients and their families.

What she’s most excited about is the all single-patient rooms with full windows. “That window is going to allow people who are lying in the bed to not just see up but to see out … We’ve got such amazing views. People are laughing at me, saying, ‘We’ve got to get ’em out of the hospital’. I’m saying, ‘Don’t worry, that will happen’.”

After the brief speeches, three-year-old Katniss Dela Cruz had no problem grabbing the mic for a musical performance. She first charmed her audience with some repartee before singing Celine Dion’s That’s The Way It Is. Remarkably, she knew every single word.

Read the full story by Caroline Philips here: