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'I'm grateful for every new day': $20-million donation transforms LHSC cancer care


It was an emotional opening day at the newly renamed Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

Hundreds of staff and patients applauded the Verspeeten family for its gift of $20 million.

“Archie and Irene’s [Verspeeten] vision was clear. To ease people’s suffering and to put an end to cancer, once and for all!” said LHSC Foundation President John MacFarlane.

The large crowd watching the announcement served as a visual reminder that cancer touches everyone.

Across three levels of the atrium, cancer patients and those caring for them, unified in their gratitude for the largest donation in the history of The LHSC Foundation.

Among the thankful is the acting president of the hospital. Dr. Kevin Chan lost a brother to cancer and Chan himself is also a cancer survivor.

“I am grateful for every new day I get to experience with friends and family,” he said.

For the surviving children of Archie and Irene, the stories of loss continue to hit home.

Jen Kerkhof and Cara Reith stand inside a lab inside the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre at LHSC. It its one of several benefactors of a $20-million donation by the Verspeeten Family to LHSC cancer care. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)Son Dennis recalled his mother’s battle with stomach cancer.

He says his mother never complained about pain. But as soon as she saw children suffering from cancer, she wanted to give back.

“When she came here for treatments, it was so sad just seeing the little kids that had this terrible disease, and they just didn’t deserve it. She never said, ‘Why me?’ She just says, ‘Why those little kids?’”

While the majority of the $20-million gift goes to patient care, $3 million is earmarked for the Verspeeten Clinical Genome Centre.

Gord Wilson, with his wife in the background, is a prostate cancer patient. By chance, he happened to be finishing up his second-last treatment when he learned the family of his late employer was unveiling the new Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre. April 29, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

Its labs, technology and ongoing research are at the core of the cancer fight.

Hearing of it all, cancer patient Gord Wilson expressed gratitude.

By chance, the semi-retired employee of Verspeeten Cartage, had his second last treatment for prostate cancer just before the announcement.

Wearing his company jacket, he couldn’t help but shake hands with current family members while offering a tribute to the impact of his late boss, Archie.

“It will help a lot of people and help find a cure for the cancer. Better treatment and maybe a quicker cure for it too.”

The Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre was officially unveiled on April 29, 2024. (Source: LHSF)

The gift includes

  • $10 million for improving patient care
  • $5 million to establish the Verspeeten Chair in Translational Cancer Research
  • $3 million to enhance the Verspeeten Clinical Genome Centre
  • $2 million to support Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology fellowships to attract the next generation of specialists

Over the last number of years, the total commitment by the Verspeeten Family to LHSC has reached $27 million.

"Today marks the beginning of the total reimagining of the London Regional Cancer Program as it is renamed the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre," said MacFarlane. “The Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre will ensure we continue pushing the boundaries of cancer care at London Health Sciences Centre, setting new standards for others to follow. This is only made possible by the generosity of selfless donors, like Archie and Irene.”  

The contribution still stands as the largest single donation in the history of healthcare foundation contributions in southwestern Ontario.

John MacFarlane speaks as three levels of onlookers greet the formal opening of the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre. April 29, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London) Top Stories

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