A family affair

“We do what we can when we can – and we try to have a positive impact wherever we can,” says Donna Poile, donor and St. Michael’s Foundation board member.

A family affair1

THE DONOR: Poile Family Foundation

THE CAUSE: No Matter What: NICU and Maternal Care

THE GIFT: $250,000

How did you first get involved with St. Michael’s Hospital and its Foundation?

Donna: I’m a former patient. I had surgery here 10 years ago. It was scary, for me and my family, but the doctor and the entire medical staff were incredible – so dedicated, kind and compassionate – and everything went smoothly. It was such a positive experience. When we became friends with Jane Humphreys and Frank Techar, who are on the hospital Foundation’s board, we were invited to see some of St. Michael’s doctors and researchers present their work. We were inspired by the great minds and ideas, and by the enthusiasm and commitment of the experts and the other supporters.

Bob: We were converted! But truly, it’s hard not to be inspired by St. Michael’s.

Of all the causes you could throw your support behind, why St. Michael’s Hospital?

Donna: St. Michael’s is an inner-city hospital serving inner-city patients with a wide range of needs. That appealed to us. St. Michael’s is trying to make Toronto a better place for everyone.

And why the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?

Bob: Who doesn’t love babies? We have a soft spot for babies. We believe that every baby should get a fair start in life. We also have a soft spot for underdogs. We were surprised to learn how challenging it has been to get the philanthropic support needed to create a state-of-the-art NICU. We wanted to put our gift where the real need was. So when we met with Lili Litwin [the Foundation’s president], we asked for her recommendations, and she suggested the NICU project. We really valued her opinion.

What should Torontonians know about St. Michael’s and the NICU?

Bob: An inner-city trauma centre can seem scary to people. But it’s important to us that there are people from all walks of life here. The hospital is so welcoming and everyone is so well taken care of. That should be the case with all Canadian hospitals, but there is something special about St. Mike’s. They truly walk the talk.

Donna: As parents of four children, we were fortunate that no major issues arose in our pregnancies or during the births. It makes you think how important a hospital like St. Mike’s is. In addition to it being a wonderful place to have a normal birth, it has the expertise to handle serious complications when it comes to deliveries and babies with special needs, with staff who provide such unbelievable care. We believe that all Torontonians, and especially prospective moms, should know about this. In fact, St. Michael’s offers continuity of care, from prenatal, through birth to young children, who are cared for in the pediatric clinic.

You’re involved in another project, which is to bring art into the pediatric clinic. Tell us about that.

Donna: Bob and I have been actively involved in the arts world for a while. We believe in supporting artists and creative minds. Jane Humphreys and I met with the RXArt Foundation in New York, which raises money to put art in health-care institutions. They’ve done some incredible work in the United States. There is also an RXArt Canada in this country. The proposal – still in its preliminary stages – is for a Canadian artist to do an installation at St. Michael’s pediatric clinic on Queen Street. When your child is unwell, the distraction and engagement that art provides help take some of your anxiety out of going to the doctor’s office. It helps create a welcoming environment for patients and their families, as well as a positive work environment for the doctors and medical staff. That means a better experience for everyone.

In addition to being major donors, you are also volunteers for St. Michael’s Hospital. What has been the best part of your volunteerism?

Bob: We’re pretty new to this, so that story is still being written. There are so many people who have been volunteering their time and talent to support the hospital for many, many years. We’ve been getting to know the medical staff, and we’ve been so impressed by how engaged the doctors are, and how enthusiastically they share what’s going on and what their needs are. It’s pretty contagious. There are such brilliant minds at St Michael’s.

You direct your support through your family foundation.

Donna: Yes, the foundation is very much a family affair. We have three girls and a boy, all grown up. They’ve been involved in projects over the years, and hopefully will continue to be involved. One of our daughters first encouraged us to get involved in adolescent mental health, and it became a family project. That was our first foray into health care, and it is what led to our interest in doing something directly for St. Michael’s.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution for 2020?

Bob: We don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore. We generally fail on them. Rather, we try to take things day by day and remember to be grateful. We do what we can when we can, and try to have a positive impact wherever we can.

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