Inspiring Philanthropists

Inspiring Philanthropists in London and Region 2020-2021


At Sofina Foods, the employees are a source of pride, a source of strength, and a source of inspiration. They are also Dream Builders.  Started in 2014, the Dream Builders Campaign is an employee-driven campaign that involves Sofina’s 5000 employees nationwide, including in London and surrounding communities, embracing a strong commitment to community citizenship by sharing their time and resources with those in need.

Each year, employees support the campaign by organizing and taking part in various initiatives to raise money in support of children’s causes.  Every dollar raised through fundraising efforts is matched by Sofina Foods Inc., doubling the impact.

Sofina Foods’ Dream Builders Campaign has definitely made dreams come true at The Sunshine Foundation of Canada!  As a generous supporter of Sunshine since 2016, Sofina Foods has donated $215,000 which has fulfilled 10 individual dreams, helped support 3 DreamLift trips to Disney, and supported our annual Float for Dreams event.

In 2020, Sofina Foods employees raised the most they have ever raised in a single year - $375,000 – a true testament to the level of their generosity and compassion.  In describing their employees’ and donors’ commitment to making a difference, Umeeda Madhany, President of the Sofina Foundation shared “Although the current state of the world has forced us all to distance ourselves physically, it is vital to remain connected both socially and emotionally.”

That connection has also become a focus for Sunshine. Although travel dreams may be on hold for now, Sunshine Dreamers are still imagining creative dreams that keep them connected to family and friends, can help them discover their highest potential, pursue their passions, give them hope, increase confidence, and build skills or experiences that will last a lifetime. 

Sunshine is extraordinarily grateful to Sofina Foods and their employees for their continued support in making life-changing dreams come true!

Drewlo Holdings

Drewlo Holdings is a family-owned business that has been developing, constructing and managing apartment buildings for 60 years in five cities in Southwestern Ontario.

In the fall of 2019, Drewlo Holdings agreed to come alongside men struggling to break free of addiction at Mission Services of London’s Quintin Warner House (QWH). Drewlo made a $110,000 donation in service of these men seeking sobriety.  This significant gift helped to maintain 24/7 addiction treatment support at QWH for a full year!

Drewlo Holdings has confidence in the depth and breadth of the addiction treatment program offered at QWH. “We like that it’s a long-term program, so not only are the men learning to live with sobriety, but they’re also learning life skills. It’s a holistic approach and that’s what Drewlo Holdings really believes in,” said Jerry Drennan, Chief Operating Officer of Drewlo Holdings.

In December 2020,  in the midst of a global pandemic, Drewlo Holdings made a second gift of $110,000 to extend the vital after-hours addiction treatment services for another full year!

Through this generous support over the past two years, men have continued to have access to an after-hours staff member who can help them overcome relapse temptation, or to work through traumatic memories and other challenges that often arise during the night for those in recovery. With services like these, men have a higher chance of success in breaking free of addiction, completing the four-month live-in treatment program at QWH, and maintaining sobriety post-graduation.

As a local business, Drewlo Holdings is committed to making a long-lasting, meaningful difference in the London community.  This is why, following their 2020 donation, they decided to challenge Londoners to match their donation dollar for dollar!  This inspired the community to raise another $120,000 which together with the Drewlo Holdings donation, raised $230,000 for 24/7 addiction treatment supports. There is no doubt that this generosity will have a remarkable impact on the lives of men seeking sobriety at QWH over the next two years.

It is our pleasure to recognize Drewlo Holdings as an inspiring philanthropist in our city. Thank you, Drewlo, for all you do to give men hope to realize their dreams for a different tomorrow!

CatherinAnne George

Catherinanne George, Director of Campus Ministry, Brescia University College

Catherinanne George grew up in London, but Brescia wasn’t her first choice for university.

In fact, she once imagined she might study sciences. Things changed, and she found herself at Brescia without a clear idea of where she was headed. “I think one of the greatest gifts of our Ursuline Sisters is helping people identify the spark that is within them.” For her, the “unfolding” that happened while she was a student changed the direction and purpose of her life. “I realized that my life is meant to be lived as a gift for others,” she says simply.

She went on to study at seminary, and then became a military chaplain. This unusual career choice started on a military golf course in Hawaii, where a member of the armed forces, suggested it. “I told him I wasn’t interested, but the idea just got inside of me and wouldn’t let go!” She was among the first five female Catholic military chaplains in Canada (the third was also an alumna of Brescia and the seminary) and the second to serve in the Canadian Naval Reserves. Among other adventures, her service took her to CFS Alert, Nunavut, in Canada’s far north. There she had the opportunity to fly in a Hercules aircraft at first light, an experience that gave her a glimpse of what Earth looks like from outer space.

Catherinanne first heard about the position at Brescia following a chance encounter with a former classmate while they were both visiting the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland. Her friend, who was involved in campus ministry, later called her and asked her to consider the opportunity. At the time she and her husband Kevin were living in Windsor. He was completing doctoral studies in Chicago, and she was Director of Campus Ministry at Assumption University at the University of Windsor. It was, she says, a sacrifice to live and work away from her home and husband. For a time, she lived like a student in Brescia’s Ursuline Hall residence. The work made it all worthwhile. “It is a deep privilege to walk alongside every person at Brescia,” she says, “to share the journey and discover paths together, to help each person see the light that’s inside them.” She has been at the University for more than ten years. Kevin is now rector of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in London.

She and Kevin began making financial contributions while living in Labrador, still paying off significant student debts. The Georges support a variety of causes, including Brescia. “I give because I’ve been given this amazing gift of life, and the ability to journey with others,” she says. “Kevin and I have been through tough times, but we’ve never done it alone.” Catherinanne recently added new contributions as a monthly donor, supporting a variety of causes within Brescia. She also served on the board of the Alumnae Association for nine years.

Catherinanne hopes that Brescia will continue to be a place where young women discover their spark. “I want students to have a deep and abiding sense of the value of who they are individually and as part of community, and to have the vision and call to transform the world.” Her generosity is helping that vision unfold.

Canada Life provides a wide range of insurance and wealth management products for individuals, families and business owners from coast to coast

Mission Services of London is honoured to count Canada Life as a partner in alleviating homelessness, poverty, mental illness and addiction in the London area.

Freedom 55 Financial, and now Canada Life, have been key partners in the annual Coldest Night of the Year Walk since its inception in London, ON.

Through Mission Services of London’s five branches of service, proceeds from London’s Coldest Night of the Year walk, help provide nutritious meals, safe emergency shelter, clothing, housing finding services, and much more to hundreds of men, women and children in need in the London area.

For 10 years in a row, the Canada Life team has consistently achieved the top fundraising total out of all London teams. Canada Life staff mobilize annually in order to engage the community to raise vital funding that will help individuals and families achieve a different tomorrow. Together with a corporate match from Canada Life, the Canada Life Freedom Walkers raised over $22,000 in February 2021 alone!

Over the past decade, the Canada Life team has raised nearly $130,000! Way to go Canada Life! Because of Canada Life’s leadership in this way, thousands of people over the past decade have received shelter from the elements, escaped homelessness and poverty, achieved sobriety and improved mental health. We cannot thank you enough for the wonderful support.


Tarek M

When Tarek Moharram’s father first came to Canada, he struggled to find employment to meet his level of education. He often battled discrimination from members of the communities in which he was trying to integrate.  This challenging journey inspired Tarek to begin volunteering for a local refugee resettlement agency. He has spent the better part of a decade leading the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC) – first as a Board Director, next as the Treasurer, and for the past few years, as Board Chair. The CCLC provides services and support to help newcomers settle in their new community, including translation & interpretation, system navigation assistance, housing, employment training, and counselling for children and those suffering from trauma.  Tarek has effectively guided the CCLC through many unprecedented circumstances.  Recent examples include the emergency resettlement of over 2,400 Syrian refugees in 2016, the organization’s 50th anniversary in 2018, and the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

In addition to being a volunteer, Tarek is also a donor to the CCLC.  Through his project management and business consulting company, Moharram Ventures Inc., Tarek initiated the Dream, then Do™ Venture Competition, an annual grant for emerging newcomer entrepreneurs.  Each year, current/recent CCLC clients are encouraged to submit their new small business idea to be reviewed by a panel of several local business leaders.  The winner receives $1,000 to build their dream into a reality.  This year’s winner is an emerging artist from Mexico who will start a jewelry and home décor business made from recycled material. 

“Tarek’s generous donation fills a gap in financial supports for newcomer-led ventures in our community. Besides countless hours volunteered with the CCLC, Tarek has also volunteered with many other non-profit groups. I’m privileged to work with an amazing leader and a very generous person,” says Valerian Marochko, Executive Director, at the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre.

On National Philanthropy Day, the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre celebrates leaders, like Tarek, who demonstrate their generous spirit and support those most vulnerable in our community. Video link

Andie M

At just 9 weeks old, Andie Morrison was rushed to Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). This is when she received her very first blood transfusion. Her hemoglobin levels were alarmingly low. It was a miracle she was alive.

Andie has a rare blood disorder called Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA) which means that her body cannot make red blood cells. There is no cure. She will require blood transfusions for the rest of her life. She has already had over 185.

For her whole life, Andie has frequently visited Children’s Hospital. However, because of COVID-19 these visits are now vastly different. When asked about these visits, Andie says, "Everyone has to wear masks. I know that they are required to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they are uncomfortable and a little annoying. Another change to my visits has been the lack of places to eat. I usually get my lunch from the cafeteria, but a lot of the restaurants in the hospital are closed. This pandemic has impacted my visits to the Children's Hospital in so many ways."

Despite this, Andie’s spirit and enthusiasm have remained strong. As has her commitment to ensuring the hospital receives much needed funds. In addition to being a current patient, Andie is also an ambassador for the Children’s Hospital, through Children’s Health Foundation (CHF). She shares her story, attends events and even hosts a fundraiser herself.

When CHF launched its Stand By Me campaign in May to ensure that our kids don’t get left behind during COVID-19, Andie jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Due to strict guidelines and procedures at Children’s Hospital, CHF staff were unable go into the hospital for video and photos that would be required for the campaign. CHF relied heavily on patient ambassadors, like Andie, to capture footage during their regular appointments/procedures at Children’s Hospital. Andie was exponentially key to the success of this campaign. Even during difficult days, she ensured CHF had the storytelling elements it needed to raise money. Andie also took the time at home to record radio ads to promote the campaign, and videos to thank donors. The campaign could not have been as successful without Andie’s incredible work.

The pandemic also didn’t stop Andie from hosting her annual fundraiser. This year was to be the 10th Anniversary of her Fight for a Cure Charity Golf Tournament. Unfortunately, it had to be postponed until July 2021. Andie’s determination to help other kids like her kept her on her mission to raise money for Children’s Hospital! Andie wanted a fundraiser that she could be involved in, which led to the development of Andie’s 5K Run for a Cure! This charity event raised over $25,000 for CHF, a remarkable accomplishment that will help to ensure better childhoods for kids facing challenges and serious health issues. 

Andie is an everyday hero who selflessly goes above and beyond to support CHF and Children’s Hospital. She is truly deserving of this nomination! 


Neil M

Neil McKay has been inspired by his own children to make a difference for the thousands of others that rely on Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre for care. They have inspired him to fundraise for Children’s Health Foundation, which he has done for several years now. Starting in 2017, Neil McKay ran 132 km during a 24-hour race and raised over $8,300 for Children’s. Neil runs in honour of his late son Jacob, his daughters Hadley and Eleni, and for all the other children and families like his.

Neil’s son Jacob was diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome, which was termed a lethal diagnosis. Potter’s Syndrome meant that Neil and his wife Haylie’s baby was not developing kidneys or a bladder properly. As such, Jacob was not able to produce enough amniotic fluid. The cause of the condition is unknown, and there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it. Ultimately, on October 23,, 2014, Jacob was born stillborn.

Neil’s other children, Hadley and Eleni, were also cared for at Children’s Hospital when they were infants, both being diagnosed with jaundice. When Eleni was a toddler, she fell at daycare and was rushed to the Children’s Hospital Paediatric Emergency Department for care. Fortunately, there was no sign of head injury, just a few teeth were damaged. Eleni’s story highlights that Children’s Hospital not only cares for those who are diagnosed with illnesses, but also those day-to-day trips to the emergency department for falls, breaks and other things that are part of growing up and being a child.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Neil has still been a dedicated supporter of Children’s Health Foundation. Luckily, his sport of choice, the ultramarathon, is an easy sport to participate in physically distanced, so the run and fundraising initiative was still able to happen. This year, Neil was able to fundraise over $6,000 for Children’s Health Foundation.

Neil and his family have also been great at fundraising and providing awareness of Children’s Health Foundation through Hadley and Eleni’s school.

In August 2021, Neil is embarking on an even bigger challenge: to run 160 kilometers at the Foxtrail Hundred Rail Trail Race in order to raise $12,000 for Children’s Health Foundation. Neil will only have 30 hours to complete this challenge. In 2019, only 57% of participants were able to complete the entire 160 kilometers.

Neil and his family are a prime example of why Children’s Health Foundation exists – to provide support to Children’s Hospital so that it can care for infants, children and adolescents to overcome insurmountable odds. Neil is a phenomenal individual who is deserving of this nomination!

Hunter F

When two-year-old Hunter Fernyc came down with a fever, his parents never dreamed it could be something as serious as Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare and life-threatening blood disease. Local doctors determined Hunter needed to be flown over 800 km to Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre immediately under the care of Children’s Hospital’s award-winning Transport Team. Hunter is one of 300-400 children from the Thunder Bay area who are transported to Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre every year for treatment for various illnesses and diseases.

Tiny Hunter endured more procedures and medications during his time in hospital than most of us will in a lifetime. He was connected to life support, received chemotherapy and had a dual Hickman line inserted (allowing doctors to administer medications while withdrawing blood), just to name a few.

After spending a total of nine weeks at Children’s Hospital, Hunter was officially classified as in remission and was able to go back to Thunder Bay with his family. Hunter is now almost nine years old, and is an active, energetic child.

Hunter’s HLH could return at any time, with the potential to be activated by something as small as a cold. Therefore, Hunter continues to visit Children’s Hospital once a year for a check-up. In between, he visits his local hospital in Thunder Bay for follow-up care. Hunter’s health care teams monitor his health to ensure he stays in remission and can keep being the bubbly boy he is!

A few years after his hospital experience, Hunter became an ambassador for Children’s Hospital, through its fundraising arm Children’s Health Foundation. He has been a huge advocate in his local community, and has shared his story to highlight the importance of supporting your local Children’s Hospital.

In 2018, Hunter represented Children Health Foundation on the national stage as their Children’s Miracle Network Champion Child. That year, he helped to raise awareness of Children’s Hospital in Thunder Bay. His new found celebrity status helped the Foundation to receive a lot of attention.

Not only has Hunter shared his incredible health care journey, he has also taken it upon himself to raise funds for the hospital. This young boy always goes the extra mile – he even convinced his local Dairy Queen to have his own Blizzard creation named after him and sold on Miracle Treat Day. This resulted in his friends and family coming in that day just to get his Blizzard!

Hunter and his mom, Jessica, also created partnership with Study Coffeehouse at Lakehead University for an initiative called “Hunter’s Coffee.” Proceeds from Hunter’s Coffee would be donat4ed to Children’s Health Foundation. Unfortunately this initiative was cut short due to COVID-19.

The pandemic, thankfully, wasn’t able to hinder another one of his local partnerships. Hunter teamed up with Beefcake’s Burger Factory to create his very own burger, called “The Hunter Burger.” This initiative, which was extended once the pandemic hit, was able to raise $4,000 for Children’s Health Foundation.

Hunter has been such a huge advocate for Children’s Health Foundation over the past few years and has brought so much awareness to the foundation in Thunder Bay. We are so grateful for his dedication to Children’s Health Foundation. He is truly deserving of this award!

Natalie T

It all started with a ‘pay it forward’ initiative in 2005: “I was one of 10 people selected at an annual business networking conference to take $100 of seed money and see how far I could pay it forward,”  explains Natalie Trimble, member of the Thames Valley Education Foundation (TVEF) Finance Committee. From 2005 to 2020, Natalie would not only help to grow a small, community-run backpack program (by a whopping 3,000%!) but she would also become founding, lead volunteer for the annual Run for the FUNd event, a TVEF Finance Committee member, and, when times became really challenging, a lead matching donor for a COVID-19 “Caring Champion” campaign to support students in need.

When Natalie first started working with the Best First Day, formerly Supplies for Students, campaign, she never would have guessed where her journey would take her. Her $100 seed money transformed over time and the backpack program quickly grew to become an enormous, community-driven campaign with the sole focus to help students across the region start school off on a positive note. From $100, to ‘Stuff the Bus’ and partnerships with local companies, when Natalie finally passed the torch, the backpack drive had grown from 100 backpacks a year to 3,500!

During the backpack drive, Natalie worked closely with the Foundation. Having observed first-hand the needs in our community, and with a penchant for organizing events, Natalie was ready for her next adventure with TVEF – the Run for the FUNd committee. This transition made sense for Natalie: “I had experience with walk/run events and a skillset for organizing and fundraising. I wanted to be a part of a team that was raising awareness around the importance of the Caring Fund and how crucial a role it plays in helping our students succeed,” she explains. Natalie was crucial member in the first year of the event, helping to design the course and manage participant flow and volunteers.

Finally, in 2019, Natalie’s experience as a financial advisor led her to join TVEF’s Finance Committee, where she now supports the financial management and stewardship of $9 million in donated funds.  

Since 2005, Natalie has truly demonstrated her passion for TVEF, not just through her extensive leadership, dedication and volunteerism, but through her generous financial support. Her giving has been consistent, but when COVID-19 hit and TVEF needed to launch a targeted fundraising campaign, Natalie was ready to donate. Without hesitation, she became a matching donor, leveraging her donation to result in $34,000 for students in emergency financial need in our community.

Natalie is the true epitome of a philanthropist. In her 15+ years with TVEF, Natalie has given time and treasure, but she’s also given heart: “These kids, all kids, are our future and each one of them deserves the opportunity to be successful. We need to support them when we can, because sometimes, this is the only support they can rely on. Helping these kids at the start gives them a better chance for a lifetime of success.”

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons is notoriously known around the world as one of the most Canadian businesses, and we at Children’s Health Foundation want to highlight them as an outstanding business in philanthropy. Many Canadians start their morning with a Tim Hortons double-double and maybe a pack of Timbits. Tim Hortons was founded by former NHL player Tim Horton in 1964, and opened his first location in Hamilton, ON. Since then, there are almost 5000 locations internationally.

Every year in mid- September, Tim Hortons transforms its chocolate chip cookies into delicious Smile Cookies with pink and blue icing.  These cookies are sold for one week, Smile Cookie Week, with proceeds supporting a local charity. Smile Cookie Week started in 1996 and has grown into a major fundraising campaign across Canada. Nationally, Tim Hortons supports more than 500 charities during the annual fundraiser.

The entire $1 that the cookies are sold for goes straight to the chosen local charity. Children’s Health Foundation has been the grateful recipient of Smile Cookie Week sales in the London area for many years.

While things looked different for Tim Hortons this year, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the dedicated employees didn’t let that stop them from having an incredibly successful year. Raising over $306,000, the 2020 Smile Cookie Week campaign was the second highest total raised, just slightly below 2019. These much needed funds life-saving equipment for fragile babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre.

Tim Hortons locations are involved in a variety if philanthropic initiatives throughout the year, though Smile Cookie Week is one of the more notable events that the community rallies around. It gives a reason to go out and purchase a cookie to support hundreds of local organizations that need support. Plus, calories don’t count when it’s a smile cookie, right? We at Children’s Health Foundation want to highlight everything that Tim Hortons does for this fundraiser as it has helped us and our NICU thrive to help infants get the best possible care.

J Francolini
Joan Francolini: Volunteer and Visionary

Time, talent, treasure – the trifecta of philanthropy. Joan Francolini gave generously of all three, and in the process transformed her family, her community, and her Alma Mater.

Joan’s father was a senior civil servant, and she grew up with the idea of public service as a high calling. According to one family story, as a child Joan gave a bike to the child of a visiting diplomat when she learned that he couldn’t afford to buy one. 

Her mother died during her first year as a student at Brescia University College. The small institution became a second home, the Ursuline Sisters, her mentors, and her fellow students, family. 

Joan met her future husband, Geno Francolini when they both served on the Students Council at Western University. They married shortly after graduation and had six children.

Like many women of her generation, Joan left paid employment while her family was growing up. But she soon got involved in volunteering at local hospitals, the church auxiliary, and other organizations. As her natural leadership abilities were recognized, she was recruited to leadership positions in many organizations, including various hospital boards and foundations, London Community Foundation, the YMCA, and United Way. Says son Tony, “It was a way to ensure that her abilities didn’t go to waste, while giving back to her community.”

In 1992, with her children launched, she became the first executive director of the Lawson Foundation, serving for nine years. In that role she was a staunch supporter of the fledgling Let’s Talk Science program, now an influential national organization.

Alongside her other activities, Joan always maintained her connection with Brescia. She and her friends regularly returned for Homecoming and she encouraged daughter Sara, also an alumna, to get involved. She was thrilled to see the University develop a focus on preparing women for leadership, and always championed its voice within the larger university. “My mother believed in the power and knowledge of women,” says Sara.

Eventually Joan developed the vision for the Francolini Leadership Experience and worked with Tony and Sara to shape it. The innovative program provides students with paid internships in local companies and organizations, while building links between Brescia and the partner organizations. “My mother wanted to help students and she wanted to develop a stronger connection between Brescia and the local community,” says Tony. “This was her way to do both.” Sara agrees, adding, “The program is really a legacy based on all the things she valued most.”

Joan received an honorary doctorate from Western University in 2012 and was named Brescia’s first chancellor in 2013. She used her Convocation address to encourage graduates to give back to their communities. “Service means involving yourselves and giving back to the communities in which you live and work,” she told the graduating class. “All the work that went into earning your degrees will provide you with the wisdom and belief in yourselves to make good decisions, think creatively, and make a difference in this world.”