Pediatric medicine is about to take a giant step forward, thanks to the love of children that one couple has in their hearts. This incredible gift to Quebec’s younger generation from Diane Blais and Michel Lanteigne is poised to yield exciting results in the near future. Read on to find out what prompted them to make a historic $40-million donation to fund research at Sainte-Justine.
As Diane Blais and Michel Lanteigne come to the end of their respective careers, they started to wonder: What should they do with the money they’ve made? What kind of legacy do they want to leave behind? They felt dutybound to do their homework and determine how to make the most of their investment in order to have a real and lasting impact on children’s health. After a lot of careful, deliberate thought, they chose Sainte-Justine as the recipient of a monumental donation that was meant to make their dream come true.
Needs abound in our society. And every cause is an important one. For us, it was essential to have a concrete impact and to see the effects of this gift within our lifetime. We were presented with several initiatives where funding was required. Considering what Michel has been through in his life, the oncology and hematology project definitely leapt out at us.
Ms. Diane Blais
At the root of this act of generosity is a child: Benoit, Michel’s late son. Benoit was diagnosed with leukemia when he was four years old. He suffered a relapse three years after being treated. The options at that time were limited, and the treatment regimens were invasive, risky and largely ineffective. In the end, nothing could save Benoit. He was eight years old when he died in 1989. Today, Michel and Diane hope to establish a legacy that will see more treatment options available to young cancer patients, for whom the survival rate lingers at around 80%.
I’ve seen first-hand how brave and resilient children can be when they’re sick. My son would sing in the car on the way to his appointments. His smile would light up his hospital room. Even in the midst of his battle with cancer, his love for life ran deep. For him and others like him, we have to find the courage to pursue our loftiest ambitions to keep our children healthy. If I can help save the life of another little Benoit out there, I know I will have done something worthwhile. My son’s spirit will have lived on.
Mr. Michel Lanteigne
Duty and compassion: these are two qualities the donors share with Drs. Sonia Cellot, Michel Duval and Elie Haddad, whose efforts will advance the work of the new Innovative Oncology and Hematology Treatment Development Fund that will be the focus of this historic donation. The fund will drive research aimed at devising novel treatments, such as targeted therapies and CAR T-Cells, and making existing treatments more widely available.
The impact of a donation of this magnitude promises to be truly life-changing. Ms. Blais and Mr. Lanteigne will be following the progress of this research with great interest and enthusiasm, confident in the knowledge that they have done their part to expedite and enhance Sainte-Justine’s efforts. Thus equipped, the teams will be able to address questions that have gone unanswered for much too long.
I know how much a serious illness can throw a family into disarray. It is up to us to support researchers’ ideas as they work relentlessly to understand how best to treat these children. We need to empower them to concentrate on what they excel at: conducting research, making new discoveries, and changing the world. We would really love to see the teams at different children’s hospitals and pediatric centres work together to align their efforts moving forward. The silos between them need to come down.
Mr. Michel Lanteigne
The opportunities to transform medical care have never been as promising as they are now. Thanks to Ms. Blais and Mr. Lanteigne’s generosity, experts will now have greater access to the latest discoveries. The ideas that emerge from this access will resonate at Sainte-Justine and beyond. In meeting with the pediatric specialists at Sainte-Justine, the couple were particularly impressed by a very thought-provoking and touching encounter with clinical scientist, pediatrician, and immunologist: Dr. Elie Haddad. This coming together of scientific ambitions and philanthropic dreams created a spark — further ignited by their shared love for children. Ms. Blais and Mr. Lanteigne’s spirit of generosity will be the fuel that keeps the fire burning for some time to come.
Sainte-Justine is a cherished Quebec institution, a beacon of hope for our entire society. We need to protect it, nurture it, and keep it growing. We need to work together to safeguard our children’s health. Our collective future is at stake.
Ms. Diane Blais
Driven by the joy of giving, Ms. Blais and Mr. Lanteigne are delighted with the new opportunities that their gift will create. Today, they are filled with great pride and excitement, the same feelings that they have felt throughout their journey of reflection.
There’s no better gift you can give yourself than helping others.
Ms. Diane Blais
We are honoured and humbled by this incredible gift, and accept it on behalf of the hundreds of families at Sainte-Justine whose lives it will change forever. Today, children can dare to dream of a life that will be cancer-free. Benoit’s legacy will enable caregivers to aim for – and reach - new heights in pediatric health. In recognition of his courage, which will inspire families faced with the ordeal of their child’s illness, Sainte-Justine’s Specialized Care Building will be renamed in his honour, as an enduring symbol of hope.
When Sainte-Justine was founded 115 years ago, it was because of the support of an entire community. As we celebrate this ground-breaking donation on December 15, 2022, we are extremely grateful to Diane Blais and Michel Lanteigne for leaving an indelible mark on the philanthropic and scientific history of Quebec. This is only the first step in what is sure to be an epic journey.