The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Recognition of Donors to the SickKids Foundation

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Toronto, Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Good evening and thank you for inviting my wife Sharon and me to be here. Tonight is an opportunity to show appreciation for donors who have made a difference, but more than that, it is an evening to reaffirm why we give.

Earlier today, we had the chance to meet some of the kids being treated at the Hospital for Sick Children and I was delighted to read them a story— after all, my grandchildren don’t call me Grampa Book for nothing.

To see their faces light up despite the hardships they have suffered reminds me of the importance of what we do. As a father and grandfather, I know there is nothing more terrifying than bringing a child to the hospital. But with that fear, there is also the relief of knowing there is somewhere to bring them, a place where dedicated professionals will do their utmost to help.

Since becoming governor general, I have heard amazing stories about children who have shown great bravery and optimism, and who have overcome the odds. I have unfortunately heard tragic stories as well, about grieving parents, nurses and doctors.

But all these stories have hope. Hope for a better tomorrow; hope that cures will be found; hope that Canada will continue to be the smart and caring nation we know it to be. Hope that we will continue to encourage volunteerism and philanthropy, not only for our own sakes, but also for that of our children.

To have met these kids—who, despite their tribulations, still imagine, still hope, still make the most of their childhood—shows me definitively why we give.

In 2017, our country will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, an occasion that will be marked by Canadians all across the country. As we approach this milestone, I want us to ask ourselves: what do we want our country to look like in 2017? How can we keep supporting important institutions like SickKids? What can we do to ensure that children and parents have a safe haven where they feel cared for and nurtured, no matter what?

I have considered these matters and, as governor general, have laid out three pillars that may help us to meet our goals. These include supporting families and children, reinforcing learning and innovation, and, of course, encouraging volunteerism and philanthropy.

SickKids is a unique place where all three pillars converge. The doctors, nurses and staff here understand better than anyone how to care for a child and how important it is to comfort families during difficult times.

If we are to be judged by future generations, let us be judged by our compassion and unwavering support for our future leaders, entrepreneurs and givers, who will carry this country well beyond our 150th anniversary.

I also had the chance today to tour the new Research and Learning Tower being built at SickKids. This new addition will increase the hospital’s ability to heal, conduct the necessary preventative research that is so vital to the health of our children, and teach a new generation of medical professionals.

The innovative and inventive work being done will ensure that new ideas become the norm. When I think back to the medicine that was practiced when I was a new father—or even further back to when I was a child—it is remarkable to see how much has changed. New technologies and new techniques have made once-dire conditions completely treatable. That is what learning and innovation has done, and will continue to do, here at SickKids—to save lives, to change lives.

Finally, the donors here today have already demonstrated the importance of giving. When you look around at this facility, at these children, you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that your generosity has made this possible, that you have made a difference.

There are many types of heroes—the children here have many, both real and fictional—but the true heroes are those ordinary Canadians who do extraordinary things.

Through volunteerism and philanthropy, and through our commitment to learning, innovation, families and children, it is conceivable that in six years’ time, when Canada reaches its 150th anniversary, we can say that we gave what we could, we participated in our society to the fullest, we learned and discovered amazing new things, we gave our children a bright future, and we realized a smarter, more caring nation.

Tonight is a celebration of giving, and a time to reflect on what that truly means.

Thank you for all that you do.