I didn’t set out to work in philanthropy. It came into my life quite serendipitously nearly seven years ago. But once I was in, I knew I was here to stay. And I have since learned the true power of what it is to work together. The snowball effect that can happen when individuals and communities contribute, day in, day out, to building the kind of progressive society we all want to see.

Charitable giving is a well-established fixture of the cultural landscape of our neighbours to the south and the rest of Canada, passed down over the years from one family to the next. Fortunately, here at home, it is increasingly becoming embedded in our own practices, at every level of society. And the timing could not be better: more than ever, looking out for the people around us is key to moving forward.

With climate threats surging worldwide and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering, the planet is holding its breath as a new and terrifying war is being waged. Times are hard. For each of us individually and for all of humanity. We have to pull in the same direction if we are to muster the strength to carry on.

We have a duty to stand united and take action to create a better world. Altruism isn’t the only force that will shape the future we will leave for the generations to come, but it is high on the list. The charities that need our support are many and by and large essential to a flourishing society, today and tomorrow.

Working as a community, drawing inspiration from one another’s fresh new ideas, forging a common vision of the future… We need the courage to see things from a different angle, to blaze collaborative and innovative trails, and to cultivate hope and beauty in a world in a constant state of flux. The expression of love that is generosity — financial, emotional and otherwise — is what will leave an indelible mark on the children who are watching what we do and counting on us.

What this means for me is that, although I plan to remain involved in several different causes, my primary focus in the years to come will be the health of our children, both here in Quebec and across Canada.

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I joined the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation as a member of the Communications team. And it is through this unique channel that I have gotten to know the caregivers and families of Sainte-Justine and seen for myself the real and truly essential impact of philanthropy on their lives. It is through the kindness and goodwill of the Foundation’s donors that we can acquire state-of-the-art equipment, recruit new talent, lead innovative research projects and do so much more.

Every day, families’ lives are changed forever by victories, big and small. Victories that grow in number from year to year. Medical breakthroughs are emerging at breakneck speed and the strides being made forward are enormous. But despite all these success stories, the unthinkable still happens. All too often. And I’ve seen it unfold before my very eyes. All too often…

One of my most memorable encounters in this regard began through some of the families I had the privilege of dealing with as part of my job and whose lives had been unfairly and brutally upended by illness. As fate would have it, I ended up growing especially close to one family in particular. They paid me the great honour of admitting me into the inner circle of their incredible 16-year-old daughter, Joanna, who was being held in the clutches of a recurring form of cancer.

During the summer of 2019, I would go visit her every week in her darkened hospital room. I was always struck by the peace and quiet that greeted me, and by the care and compassion of the staff who attended to her, day after day, as her young life came to a much too early end. It was Joanna’s words of wisdom and her spirit of grace and resilience that touched me the most deeply.

We would laugh, talk about happier times and share quiet moments together. Oddly, I would leave each of our encounters feeling better than I had when I walked in. It was like I grew, little by little, with every visit. Until the day I went to say my goodbyes. It was then and there that I made the most important promise of my life. I took Joanna’s frail, limp hand into mine, I looked straight into her eyes, and I told her I would do everything I could to keep something like this from ever happening again.

I can’t keep this promise on my own, naturally. But by harnessing the power of together, it is entirely within the realm of the possible.

Today, as I accept the tremendous honour of stepping into the role of President and CEO of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation, I am sending a special message of love to Joanna, and I’m thinking of all the young people who will be guiding me, and guiding us all, along the path forward.

Delphine Brodeur
President and Chief Executive Officer
CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation

*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.