Over coffee and pie, a new friendship was born. It marked a turning point in Elvira Mariotti’s life, one that set her on the path to become the committed philanthropist she is today. Elvira’s experience at Sainte-Justine with her daughter led the mother of two to include the institution in her will, giving what many consider to be the ultimate gift.
Her relationship with Sainte-Justine began more than 25 years ago, when her weeks-old daughter Giulia was transferred here, the largest mother-and-child hospital centre in Canada. Elvira was welcomed by a medical team and support staff who treated her like family.
The hospital cafeteria became a familiar place. I would meet up with another mom almost every day to chat over a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. The lady who worked there always made us feel right at home. Over the years, people from all areas of the hospital have made a real difference in the daily lives of our families.
Giulia had cerebral palsy. Within the first few months of her life, it became clear that she would face major challenges every day. After Giulia was discharged from her first stay, she would regularly return to the hospital for follow-up, rehab and other services. Sainte-Justine served as a sort of home away from home for her.
Although unable to sit up, walk, speak or see clearly, Giulia was an incredibly resilient little girl and continued to grow. At every step of the way, she was able to rise above her limitations with the unconditional, unwavering support of her parents.
When Giulia was four years old or so, her family travelled to England and discovered hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This is a treatment that involves increasing air pressure while the patient lies in a pressurized chamber, thus boosting blood oxygen levels. The therapy improved Giulia’s quality of life: she became more alert, had fewer spasms and even started to be able to eat by mouth.
Seeing this, Elvira made it her mission to bring the same type of equipment to Montreal. She connected with a group of families who partnered with medical specialists to promote the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for children like Giulia. Their efforts contributed to making the treatment available in children’s hospitals in Montreal, including Sainte-Justine's Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre.
Sadly, Giulia’s life was cut short when she was only 14 years old. As brief as her time was, she left a tremendous impact on the world around her: her loved ones remember her as a girl with tremendous inner strength and an inspirational outlook on life. What was learned from her journey can now help other young patients with the same medical issues. And her life has inspired her mother to leave a bequest for the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.
Making a difference for many years to come
When you ask Elvira why it’s so important to her to donate, and particularly why she thinks planned giving is so worthwhile, she will tell you that she is committed to ensuring that other families will continue to be welcomed into the same compassionate environment that she and her daughter enjoyed from the very start of their relationship with Sainte-Justine. She wants to give the mother-and-child centre the means to remain a supportive space for families — be it in terms of the overall atmosphere, the state-of-the-art facilities or the staff. That is what Sainte-Justine and Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre were for her and Giulia.
How do the other family members feel about all this? Elvira has another child, a son, who is well aware of his mother’s wishes.
He has what he needs and is proud to see me engaging this way with the memory of his sister’s life and journey. Like me, he knows that our savings will go to an important cause and an institution that has stood the test of time. Our bequest will mean that the children who pass through Sainte-Justine can feel confident that they are in good hands. When I think back to the time we spent there, what I remember most is that positive emotion.
A wonderful way to give back
With her bequest to the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation, Elvira is making a promise: a promise of a heathy future for all children in Quebec. Her donation will allow this century-old institution to continue to provide exceptional health care to future generations.
For more information on bequests and other planned giving solutions, contact Nathalie Gagnon at email@example.com or at 514-345-4931, ext. 6749.