The gift of the IWK
An $8 million donation by the widow of Izaak Walton Killam in 1965 paved the way for the region’s world-class children’s hospital in Halifax
Imagine if the IWK did not exist. Imagine if patients and families had to travel extensively for specialized care. Imagine if the IWK was unavailable as a source of training and research that attracts and retains worldclass professionals. Imagine what it would be like for Maritime families lacking the comprehensive excellence of remarkable staff and countless volunteers. Simply put, I cannot imagine our region without the IWK.
So, it is fitting that today, the birthday of Izaak Walton Killam, we pause to celebrate the impact of philanthropy on the evolution of the IWK.
Born in 1885 in Yarmouth, N.S., Izaak Walton Killam grew up modestly, yet went on to have an extremely successful career in business. He directed that his estate should support charities in Canada, with a special focus in Nova Scotia and especially in support of advancements in medicine, science and engineering. As a memorial, his widow, Dorothy Killam, donated $8 million in 1965 toward the construction of a new facility for the care of children. Her remarkable gift accounted for approximately 40 per cent of the construction cost of the institution which opened in 1970 as the IWK Hospital for Children. This transformative donation set the stage for the growth of a worldclass facility which continues to serve women, children and families across our entire region.
The Killam gift fits well into a historical spectrum of decades of donor support that has enabled the institution to not only remain viable, but to achieve a truly world-class reputation for clinical care, teaching and research.
As a pediatric surgeon, I was privileged to be involved for many years in the work of the IWK. Like others, I was always impressed by the resilience of children and families faced with serious health problems. Many of these children rely on the IWK as their home away from home and regard their care teams as extended family. And they regularly demonstrate strength beyond their years.
Additionally, I was equally impressed by the tremendous support that we all received from the community of donors. I have seen the daily tangible benefits that result from their generosity. Their support is not a fringe benefit. It is essential. Donors have enabled the bar to be set high — and they keep it there! They deserve the enduring gratitude of the IWK and Maritime families served by the institution.
Excellence must remain the goal for all of us. And this can only be sustained if we all contribute as fully as possible.