Cancer doctor says Kelowna will benefit from massive Vancouver donation

A $21.4 million donation to the B.C. Cancer Foundation is believed to the biggest ever in the province to a single organization.

The head of the radiation department at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Sindi Ahluwalia Centre for the Southern Interior says the biggest donation ever to a single organization in B.C may have occurred in Vancouver Thursday, but it’s good news for Kelowna.

Dr. Ross Halperin said the $21 million donation to the B.C. Cancer Foundation, made by the grandson of an Eastern European immigrant who came to Canada in 1928, made his money in real estate, loved Canada and bequeathed the equity of a building he owned in Vancouver to the foundation when he died in 1991, will help fund important cancer research here as well as at other cancer centres across the province.

Halperin, who watched a live video feed of the donation presentation from Vancouver at the Kelowna cancer centre Thursday morning, said the money from the Jambor-McCarthy legacy will help get new projects started and further existing projects and, just as important, help attract other funds for cancer research.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said.

While its to early to pinpoint exact projects here that will benefit from the huge donation, Halperin called it an “accelerator” for future research.

The donation was made by Burnaby businessman William McCarthy, the grandson of John Jambor, through his management of the gift of an office building Jambor bequeather to the Cancer Foundation in 1991.

When Jambor died in 1991 at age 89, McCarthy was charged with stewarding the equity in the building to one day benefit cancer research and education in the province.

McCarthy brought the investment’s value up to  $21 million before handing it over in cash the foundation on Thursday. It is the largest charitable bequest to a single organization ever in B.C.

McCarthy said his grandfather, who came to this country from the former Austrian/Hugarian Empire(now Slovakia) in 1928 with just $14.04 in his pocket, loved Canada, particularly B.C. and lived by the motto, “work hard, live well and give back.”

After doing several different jobs and running a general store in Noranda, Quebec for 13 years, Jambor came to B.C. in 1948 to retire. But instead he began a prosperous real estate career, one that his grandson joined him in later on.

McCarthy  said he hoped the donation would help spur others to follow suit.

He said his grandmother, Jambor’s wife Joan, died of cancer in 1970 and in the early 1980s, Jambor was treated for cancer as well.

The massive donation will be split three ways, with $15 million going to a  permanent endowment for cancer research and education, $5 million going to create the new William P.J. McCarthy chair of cancer research at the B.C. Cancer Agency and $1.4 million going to support community cancer care in B.C.

Halperin said money from donations such as the Jambor-McCarthy legacy has already helped pay for cancer research here that has lead to changes in standards of care for cancer patients and he said the Kelowna centre has also benefited from a very generous community here.

The Kelowna centre is named after the late former Kelonwa-Mission Liberal MLA Sindi Hawkins, who died of leukemia in 2010 after a six-year battle with the disease.

A nurse and lawyer before becoming a politician, Hawkins helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Cancer research during her years fighting leukemia.