Toronto’s Kimel family is esteemed for their philanthropic leadership and contributions within the Jewish community. They recently announced a multi-generational gift of $4 million to the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), in support of the Centre for Brain & Mental Health.
“This is our family’s first significant contribution to an institution or organization outside of the Jewish community,” said Lauren Kimel-Wise, who originally came up with the idea.
“Our family has been invested in brain health for some time. Three out of four of our grandparents have had Alzheimer’s disease and I struggle with mental health issues. I said to my siblings, ‘our parents are so invested already in the aging brain that I think it’s time that we step up and invest in the child’s brain.’ ”
Warren and Debbie Kimel are blessed with six grandchildren, with one more on the way in March. Their children, Lauren, Samantha, Michael and Jeffrey, together with their spouses, Jamie Wise, Jeffrey Gottesman, Chloe Kimel and Brie Kimel, have made a personal 10-year commitment to SickKids.
“My siblings and I all have young families and we want to invest in their future. We believe in healthier futures for all children, not just our own and this is the way to do it: through SickKids,” said Kimel-Wise.
If we can intervene at an early age, then it is hopeful that the outcome will be positive
“We are proud and excited that our children have learned from our teachings and that they stepped up to the plate to be philanthropic in their own right and make a gift alongside of us. Debbie and I decided to contribute a certain amount to SickKids, but the kids wanted to make the gift even more transformational and decided to add to what we were planning to give,” said Warren Kimel.
Kimel-Wise was originally introduced to SickKids through its Innovators
“I realized there was so much innovation going on behind the scenes, and through Innovators, I was able to meet and talk with world-renowned researchers and doctors. My parents and my siblings and I are very interested in medicine and passionate about research and advancing patient care outcomes for children. I wanted to complete the picture and bring it full circle and take the lifecycle of the brain from that of the child, to the aging brain. If we can intervene at an early age, then it is hopeful that the outcome will be positive,” she said.
The brain is a complex organ, made up of 100 billion neurons (brain cells), but it is the least understood. One in three Canadians will be affected by one or more brain conditions at some point in their lives. About one in five individuals will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime and about half of those disorders manifest before the age of 16. In total, there are more than 1,000 diseases that affect the brain and nervous system.
“It has been rewarding to see multiple generations within this family come together to improve the outcomes of children with brain illness and with mental health conditions. The goal of the centre is the integration of research, clinical care and education and the Kimel Family Program in Lifelong Brain Health is really going to catalyze these efforts to improve outcomes for children and youth,” said Dr. Steven Miller, head of neurology and a senior scientist in neurosciences and mental health at SickKids.
“I’m hoping to inspire and engage our community – our friends, our peers and our contemporaries – to open their eyes to this world-renowned facility that we have in our backyard. I am excited to be part of the revolutionary changes and the rebuild of the hospital,” said Kimel-Wise.
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