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Home builder Peter Gilgan donates $10-million to St. Joseph’s hospital

St. Joseph's Health Centre has received a $10-million donation from philanthropist and home builder Peter Gilgan, one of the largest gifts made to Toronto's west-end hub for medical care.

With this donation, the hospital's ongoing campaign to raise $70-million – launched last year and dubbed the Promise campaign – has surpassed 85 per cent of its goal.

St. Joseph's set an ambitious target, after raising $17-million the last time it held a formal fundraising campaign. The hospital, which serves a diverse population of more than half a million people, has been outgrowing parts of its aging home. Among the plans for the new funds are an expansion of the emergency department, which was designed for 60,000 patient visits a year but receives 100,000, and the installation of a new MRI machine.

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For Mr. Gilgan, it is an investment in the place of his birth. Long before he was founder and chief executive officer of Mattamy Homes, which is North America's largest privately owned home builder, he and each of his six siblings were delivered by the same doctor at St. Joseph's.

"There's a huge array of people, personalities and income levels that come through this place, and it's worthy of support," Mr. Gilgan said in an interview. "It's the backbone of the community."

With this latest gift, Mr. Gilgan has donated more than $175-million to various causes, including other hospitals in Toronto. But it was Victor Dodig, president and CEO of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and a co-chair of the fundraising campaign, who put St. Joseph's back on Mr. Gilgan's radar.

Mr. Dodig also has deep personal connections to the hospital: He and his brother were both born there, and grew up on a nearby street. His father was also treated at St. Joseph's before he died two years ago.

He praised Mr. Gilgan as "a builder in every sense of the word: He builds homes, he builds communities."

Co-chairing the campaign with Mr. Dodig is Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, a Mimico native who also grew up nearby. And it's no accident that so many former neighbourhood residents are leading the charge. While major specialty hospitals such as the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Hospital for Sick Children attract widespread attention from donors, St. Joseph's must appeal to its roots in the community around it.

"Lots of times, it's where you come from," Mr. Dodig said. "The community hospitals, you tug at something that you grew up with and you really experienced in your life."

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Mr. Gilgan, whose mother used to point to the hospital room where he was born when they drove by the building, felt that tug. And now a wing of the hospital will be renamed the Gilgan Family Wing in recognition of the gift.

He said he tells his friends who have made "a couple of bucks" that "you'll never miss the money that you give away. Ever."

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