Inspiring Philanthropists in London and Region 2022-2023

Barb Legate: A Compassionate Heart

Barb Legate
believes “If we want a healthy community, we must have healthy children; healthy in body, mind, and heart.”  Her career as a lawyer, and being a mother and grandmother, has given her an especially compassionate heart for children who are mistreated, disadvantaged, or have suffered injury or serious illness.   

Barb has become a noted community leader, with decades of contributing to a better London through her numerous philanthropic endeavors.  Children’s Health Foundation is extremely grateful for Barb’s dedicated involvement, including her generous financial support of our healthcare partners - Children’s Hospital, TVCC and Children’s Health Research Institute - to help children in need of specialized care and rehabilitation and much needed research.  Barb has also been an exemplary volunteer, serving on the Board of Children’s Health Foundation since 2014 and various other committees, all to strengthen this cause that she so strongly believes in.  

Barb has also contributed to many other worthy causes in London including the London Food Bank, Anova, the Salvation Army, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Vanier Children’s Services, and others.  Barb has been a trailblazer as a female lawyer, using her voice and influence to encourage others to speak up, and stand up, for the more vulnerable in our community. She has inspired many through her mentorship of young lawyers and law students, public speaking, activism, and her great example of the difference you can make by being involved in public service and community outreach.  

It is Children’s Health Foundation’s great honor to recognize Barb and celebrate her philanthropic passion for our healthcare partners and other causes helping children and families in our community.

CAISA: Dedicated to Innovative Research

The young adults at CAISA (Canadian Asian International Students Association)
are making a bold statement for kids in our community. The CAISA Fashion Show raises money for Children’s Health Foundation while creating an inclusive community for Western Students. With their heart for innovative research and Children’s health they exemplify that they are the future leaders of our London community. Committee members work tirelessly to host a beautiful fashion show/production feature event each spring – coming March 11, 2023 - that brings together students and the extended London community all while highlighting their leadership abilities and making a strong impact on the future of children in London. Over the past few years, they have chosen to fund research, knowing that research improves paediatric medicine and invests in the future of sick children, its progressive and is something that this group is incredibly passionate about.
Their communities faithful support of Children’s Health Foundation has been making an impact for 18 years, during this time they have contributed to multiple facets of research including: stem cell and research, concussion research, healthy hearts, and novel model’s research.

Despite the COVID pandemic, they still didn’t let anything stop their impact, in 2019 the last in person fashion year they raised $35,000 for congenital heart defect research and in 2020-2021 they raised $36,000 for bioinformatics research.

We are incredibly grateful for their continued partnership with Children’s Health Foundation and the leaders that they are in the London and Western student community. They are the future and they’re a model of investment in the generations that will come after them as they impact change for pediatric research in our region.

Celebrating a Partnership Making a Positive Difference to Children’s Healthcare

Children’s Health Foundation is featuring the Finucci, Janitis, Allen Group at RBC Securities Southwestern ON for National Philanthropy Day. This team is dedicated to making a positive difference to children’s healthcare and has been an integral support to Children’s Hospital and Children’s Health Foundation as well as other children’s charities in the region.

Vito Finucci is the founding partner and for over 30 years has been the driving force behind the Children’s Golf Classic Signature Event. Attendees have helped raise nearly 6 million in three decades. He is a Children’s Health Foundation Honorary Director and he and his family have been long-standing loyal donors for over 30 years. He was a winner of the Volunteer Service Award in 2019 and his enthusiastic and charismatic influence in our community has championed many others to become long-time supporters.

Eric Janitis, the second partner in this group is also part of ensuring RBC Dominion Securities presenting sponsorship of the Children’s Golf Tournament and a past Board Director for Children’s Health Foundation. Over the years Eric has also been involved in supporting Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre of which he says “Merrymount is kind of like the roots of a tree-you don't realize how deeply they are involved with every aspect of the London community until you become involved with the organization-in one way or another.”

Rachelle Allen recently joined this dynamic team as a third partner.  Plunging into supporting children and families at Children’s Hospital through our Wine, Women and Shoes Honorary Committee and joining the Children’s Golf Classic work team.

Their commitment to kids despite COVID was a true test of giving and one where they not only succeeded but exceeded expectations. The community rallied around Vito as he stood by our kids and cut his COVID hair to raise an additional $10,000 during the global pandemic. This act truly highlighted the comradery Vito has with the community.

The Finucci, Janitis, Allen Group at RBC Securities group has created a ripple effect for Children’s Health Foundation bringing awareness to the importance of rallying support for children and their families. When a group of their stature features our cause, it has a reputational impact. We are so grateful for the effect they’ve made and continue to make as community leaders, helping us to bring in new strategic partnerships.

Karen Fryday-Field: Helping People Move Forward

Everyone has a part to play in helping others; this is one of Karen Fryday-Field's beliefs when it comes to philanthropy. “I believe that each one of us is called in whatever manner we can respond to give of our time, our talent and our treasures to serve as one of the many in the community,” she says. Karen lives out this motto in her own life and provides a strong role model of how philanthropists’ work helps others.

Fryday-Field is dedicated to serving in her local community to build community capacity and success. She has served as the Chair and Past Chair of the Board for the United Way of London and Middlesex and has served on several other boards and committees, including the Brescia University College $10M LEAD WITH US Campaign Cabinet and past Chair of Brescia’s Board of Trustees. “When we work together to make a difference for individuals and organizations,” Karen says, “we can accomplish so much more.”

Karen’s dedicated leadership in the London community is reflected in her generous spirit as she contributes to the community with her time, effort and financial support. One area that she highly regards is women’s education. “I think women deserve to have all the knowledge and skills and empowerment that is possible, and I don’t think there should be any limits,” she says. Because of this, Karen has supported Brescia University College for many years. “Brescia is an incredible enabler of supporting all women, including women who have had challenges in finding a place in education to thrive in their academic learning and also in their competency building. I think that is an important uniqueness of Brescia.”

Not only does she stand for women’s education, but also groups in need of fair treatment. She says, “I believe philanthropy is also about helping to enhance justice and equity and to respond to equity deserving groups – people who haven’t had the same advantages or the same privileges – and to help move all people forward.”

As we reflect on National Philanthropy Day, Brescia is proud to recognize Karen Fryday-Field as a philanthropist in our Brescia and London community.

Linda Wheeler: Opening the Windows of Opportunity

Bringing smiles to single mothers and giving them the help to pursue their educational dreams has been the result of Linda Wheeler’s philanthropic work.

As a single mother raising two beautiful daughters, Linda is passionate about helping these women achieve great things through higher education and make them feel like they are enough for their children. She has taken this philanthropic goal and created a monetary award for single mothers at Brescia called the Sarah’s Smile Award which all started by an unexpected comment and smile from her daughter Sarah.

Linda had gone on a ten-day journey to Iceland where she hiked 150km to support a women’s shelter which helped women who had left abusive relationships and who were trying to restart their lives. As she came back home and was tucking in her daughter before bed, Sarah, who at the time was just six years old, declared that she wanted to start cross-country running, in winter, with no shoes on. When Linda asked her why, Sarah was quick to respond, “because that is something that you would do”. Linda said, “I knew in that instant all of these things that I’d been doing over the course of my life to try to prove that I could compete or to be enough was already enough and I was a parent in her eyes. From that moment on I never doubted myself.”

Because of this, Linda has created an award at Brescia University College for single mothers to gain an opportunity to achieve post-secondary education and feel like they are making their children proud. “It was called the Sarah’s Smile Award because it was within Sarah’s smile that I saw myself for exactly who I was and that I was enough,” she said.

Linda’s generosity is a stepping stone for countless women to achieve their goals. “I hope it gives people an opportunity, much like myself, to receive things not as a closed door but as an open window and show that there is always opportunity and there is always somebody out there willing to extend themselves to support you,” she said.

Through Linda’s philanthropic support, many deserving women are able to go through that open window and gain support to achieve higher education and receive confirmation that they are enough as women, as a parent and as single mothers. Brescia is honoured and exceedingly grateful to highlight Linda Wheeler as a philanthropist in our Brescia community.

Marjie Macoun: Embedded in the London Community

Marjie Macoun has blessed the London community with her philanthropic work for many years. Originally from Manitoba, Marjie and her husband Jeff and three children, moved here just over 30 years ago. Since then, she has volunteered in many capacities with several organizations in London including the YMCA, Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre, Operation Walk Canada, London Community Foundation and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation.

She observes that volunteering helps her feel more engaged with and connected to the community. “I’ll never learn everything about London but every time I’m volunteering at an event, attending an event or supporting an event I learn a little bit more and another door opens,” she says.

Marjie remarks that her inspiration for volunteering in the community comes from her husband, Jeff. His passion for giving back to the community was contagious and his engagement encouraged her to also give back. “He is my inspiration because he’s done so much volunteering in the community,” she says. “It’s his involvement that really got me going as well, so I have to give him that credit.”

One area of Marjie’s philanthropic work is higher education. In 2011 she graduated from Brescia University College with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology as a mature student while her children were in high school. She says that lifelong learning and the thirst for greater knowledge should be important to everyone. Because of the value she places on higher education, she says that supporting Brescia “was an opportunity that I wasn’t expecting, and I couldn’t be more happy to participate”. With all of Marjie’s community involvement and philanthropic work in London she comments, “It’s about giving back but as they say, I get so much more in return.”

Brescia would like to thank Marjie Macoun for not only her philanthropic work and support here at Brescia, but also for her unwavering leadership throughout the entire London community.

Muriel Rowe: Paying it Forward

The importance of paying it forward is one of Muriel Rowe’s long-lasting standpoints that was embedded into her from her parents’ and grandparents’ example. Muriel remarks how her grandparents helped her parents through their higher education and later recalls how her parents helped her through her own post-secondary journey. Because of this, Muriel decided to help future students achieve their academic dreams, just as she was helped, through supporting Brescia where she attended school and graduated from in 2008.

Without even realizing it, Muriel Rowe has been with Brescia University College since childhood. Growing up, Muriel would visit her grandma who lived in London and enjoyed walking the dog behind her grandma’s house because of the beautiful buildings resting on the hill. Little did she know, those buildings were Brescia’s classrooms, offices and residences that she would one day be going to school in and later supporting as a philanthropist.

The first day she came to tour Brescia was life changing for Muriel. She says she was drawn to the close-knit community where everyone knew the faces of everybody they passed and she felt like she was not just a student number, but a person with a name.

Because of this community, Muriel gained a love and passion for supporting Brescia as a philanthropist. She believes that is it important to pay forward the Brescia experience to future generations and financially supports this goal by having continually given to Brescia over the past thirteen years. “We have to make sure that our experiences and the places that raised us get that support in turn for the next generation,” she says.

She goes on to say that philanthropic work does not have to be done in large donations, but everyone can be a philanthropist with even the smallest gifts of time and financial support. “I find that often people will talk themselves out of donating to causes if they don’t think the amount they can offer will be enough to make a difference; however, as anyone who has organized an office baby shower knows, modest sums add up quickly. Don’t discount the power of giving a $10, $15 or $20 gift - all combined they certainly make things happen,” she comments.

Muriel’s philanthropic work continues to help current and future students pursuing their goals at Brescia. We are eternally grateful for the support that Muriel has given and continues to give to the Brescia community here in London.

Sandy Mikalachki and Nicole Spriet: Champions for Youth 

Lifelong residents of London Ontario, Sandy and Nicole have quietly donated over $1 million in the London community. They are champions for youth, providing ongoing scholarships through the Thames Valley Education Foundation (TVEF), supporting post-secondary learning for students within Thames Valley District School Board. They believe in helping students to overcome challenge and achieve excellence, with financial support and encouragement.

“We have met such fascinating, compelling students since beginning our scholarship in 2015. Our focus has been students with financial need who have overcome challenge and have specific post-secondary goals. The criteria also highly values kindness, pursuit of excellence and the effort to self-fund. From determined immigrants to resilient survivors - and everything in between - there are some great stories within the youth of our community. Remarkable how overcoming challenge and achieving excellence often find themselves paired.”

- Sandy Mikalachki & Nicole Spriet

In 2020, recognizing the dire need of students and families as the pandemic continued to close schools and community supports, Sandy and Nicole helped launch the first campaign for the TVEF Caring Fund, leveraging their network to build awareness. Sandy and Nicole shared in the vision of supporting students identified by teachers as requiring emergency financial support. The partnership campaign raised over $100,000, every dollar supporting students in need of food, clothing, and school supplies.

Sandy and Nicole’s significant community work has also included Thames Valley Children’s Centre, Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, LIFE*SPIN, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, and other small grassroot organizations that have an impact in the community they call home.