Who: Russell and Linda Grass, Waterdon Construction
The donation: $1,000,000 legacy gift
The recipient: University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation
This February, you can support one of Canada’s most distinguished heart health centres by making a donation or raising funds on its behalf.
The inspiration: “There is a story behind every gift we give to charity. Our family, including my parents and brother, have been affected by heart disease. The heart institute is world-class. To think we have this incredible health centre in a city of a million people is amazing. We just needed to help,” says Russell Grass, founder of Waterdon Construction.
Russell and Linda Grass are the first people to admit that, when they started out, they did not have much financially.
“We came from nothing, and, as time went on with the businesses, we knew we needed to give back,” says Russell.
The Grass family is not new to philanthropy and easily can rhyme off donations over the years to various organizations, including the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and the Stittsville Food Bank. Some of the charitable gifts are from their business, Waterdon Construction, and some have been donated directly from the couple.
In fact, philanthropy has become a family activity. The Grasses have three grown children and five grandchildren. They beam with pride when talking about the ways their family has embraced community and philanthropy. The decision to leave a legacy gift in their wills was an easy one. The $1-million gift will be bequeathed to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation to ensure future generations have exceptional heart health care in the capital.
“What I love about Russell is that he’s got such a big personality and you know when he’s in the room,” says Lianne Laing, executive director at the foundation. “But what makes him so special is that he’s got such a big generous heart that has made an impact, not just at the heart institute, but across this community. His love for Linda and his family can be felt in the way he gives back in leaving a legacy for the next generation through a planned gift.”
“We want better than basic health care. We want the best health care. So we stepped up,” adds Russell. “So many people do not understand that, unless donors give generously, we will not have the equipment we need to have the best. We do not want to travel outside of this region for heart health care.”