– Interview by Susan Lundy Photography by Lia Crowe
Nice to meet you, Avery. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, where I spent 20 years before moving to Toronto to pursue a career in public relations and philanthropy.
How did you get to Oak Bay?
I found Oak Bay from Toronto via Whitehorse, if you can believe it! I spent two-and-a-half years in the Great White North before finally landing on Vancouver Island to join an organization now so dear to my heart: the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. After renting for a few years in the Rockland and Fernwood areas, we found the perfect house in Oak Bay last November: a place to call home in this community we love to call ours.
How did your career path lead you to the role of executive director for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation?
I feel immense gratitude and great privilege to have made fundraising a passion so early on in my career. It has been an honour to grow in this profession; from fundraising for Big Brothers Big Sisters, to supporting the development of provincial non-profits like the John Howard Society of Ontario, and finally working for national organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Ovarian Cancer Canada. The time I spent in the Yukon found me travelling the northern territories for Shaw Communications, where I spearheaded sales and promoted corporate social responsibility efforts. Each role has been unique and excellent preparation for what would come next. I am proud of the career path I have taken, which now leads me here, with one of the Island’s largest and most impactful charities.
Hospital philanthropy became personal when I suddenly lost my father in a hospital setting. Being able to foster giving in his honour, and in honour of the dedicated care teams and everyday heroes behind the masks, became a priority, and a necessity. I truly love what I do—it fuels my fire to inspire giving, and to give back myself.
What does the Victoria Hospitals Foundation do?
As a team, we inspire community giving to transform healthcare in our local hospitals. Many people are not aware that 40 per cent of the equipment our care teams use at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals exist because of the generosity of our donors. As Island Health’s charitable partner, we raise donations for medical equipment, special projects, education and research.
Annually, the foundation stewards millions of dollars for our hospitals, and last year we purchased over 100 pieces of priority equipment. Our close partnership with Island Health ensures every gift is directed to where it is needed most to support the 850,000 residents who live and access care here on Vancouver Island. It’s vital for everyone’s health that our hospitals have the best and brightest tools and technology, and we are grateful to those who help make our centres as excellent as they can be.
What challenges/rewards does the foundation face?
I feel our biggest challenge is differentiating ourselves and conveying why we still need our community to give when access to our hospitals is, in simplified terms, free. All hospital foundations face this universal dilemma in our country. The simple answer? If we relied on government alone, we would be waiting much longer for the latest and greatest tools, equipment and research.
A community united for healthcare can do so much. Our team understands the profound privilege we have as prudent stewards to our donors. Experiencing first-hand how transformative and life-saving one single gift can be is not something everyone experiences, and we have the great honour to witness these everyday miracles. The relationships we have with our donors are never taken for granted; they are a treasure to us all.
How do you inspire philanthropy?
I inspire by teaching. When individuals understand the impact they can make, it makes a world of difference. At the foundation, transparency is a large component of every initiative we undertake. We pride ourselves on creativity and knowing our community, so we offer experiences, events and exclusive opportunities to our donors.
Our partnership with Island Health strengthens our work. We collaborate often, and at any given time, physicians, nurses, care team members, educators and researchers, to name a few, are willing to share authentic stories with our community and give us personal access into an environment many of us know little about. They always go the extra mile, whether at the bedside or to share our message with those in our community.
What brings you joy?
I am most fulfilled when the people I care most about are happy. I smile when my grandmother starts singing when she cooks. I laugh instantly when my dog Grace starts smiling. And, when my colleagues and I are celebrating a recent success…well, that’s hard to beat.
Anything else you’d like us to know?
I’d like to say thank you! Our foundation continues to be inspired by the generosity and support for our hospitals’ front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recently launched our largest campaign in over a decade, It’s Critical, to expand critical care capacity at Royal Jubilee Hospital and give Vancouver Island our first permanent High Acuity Unit which will treat critical care patients, including those with severe COVID-19 symptoms. To learn more, I invite you to visit victoriahf.ca/critical. And while we cannot meet in person at this time, my colleagues and I are always delighted to have virtual coffee meet-ups with our donors—past, present and prospective. I look forward to getting to know one another.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-519-1750.
This story originally ran in Oak Bay’s Winter 2020/2021 issue of Tweed magazine