When RBC’s Janet McKeage began volunteering with The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) Foundation about a decade ago, part of what inspired her to help was her good friend’s battle with pancreatic cancer.
Her first gig was working the room as a table captain during that year’s TOH Foundation President’s Breakfast, where she learned more about recent advancements at the hospital. She was hooked.
“I had no idea that we had so much advanced technology and R&D, along with the incredible critical care capabilities, at the hospital,” she says of her initiation as a TOH volunteer. “It was a real eye-opener for me.”
Fast forward to today and the senior investment counsellor at RBC PH&N Investment Counsel is now chair of the TOH Foundation’s board of directors — a massive responsibility considering the foundation recently launched the largest fundraising campaign in Ottawa’s history. She’s also a member of the campaign’s executive team.
The Campaign to Create Tomorrow aims to raise $500 million to fuel world-leading research and help fund TOH’s planned 2.5-million sq. ft., healthcare facility at Dow’s Lake.
A Deloitte economic analysis says the facility will likely generate more than $1 billion in annual labour income in the city via 4,030 full-time equivalents (FTEs). And the hospital says the new facility will have the capacity to treat more than 60,000 patients annually.
For McKeage, giving back to the community is something that comes naturally. Her family – her dad was in the Canadian Armed Forces, and her mom was a nurse – has a history of philanthropy.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” she explains. “But my mom, to this day, has a huge garden and she delivers food to people in her community from the garden every summer,” McKeage continues. “That taught me from a young age that if you’re able to help, you’re fortunate and you should give back however you can.”
Now that she’s chair of the TOH Foundation’s board of directors, McKeage says she’s in an even better position to give back to her community. The role mostly consists of raising awareness by speaking at events and bringing people together, with the ultimate goal of inspiring their support and raising money for the campaign.
“It’s an easy pitch,” she says with a smile. “Because everybody’s been there. You were either born at The Ottawa Hospital, or received treatment there, or if you haven’t you’re going to be there at some point if you live in Ottawa. So there’s a natural connection for everybody in the city.”
That’s one reason why this campaign — and McKeage’s role in it — is so vital to the future of healthcare in Ottawa.
As for her good friend who received such a devastating diagnosis years ago? Agonizingly, after 9 years and 9 months, her cancer has returned which makes this ask for support even more personal for McKeage.