One family’s inspiring legacy of support.
By: Kris Wallace
The Wong family’s roots at St. Paul’s go back more than 40 years. In 1978, Stanley was working full time, studying for his cooking certificate, and moonlighting at St. Paul’s. Now semi-retired (“I’m too young to retire,” he jokes) after a long career as a chef and restaurateur, Stanley spends much of his time giving back and encouraging others to do the same.
Stanley Wong gives his time and energy to worthy causes across the city, but Lights of Hope is the one nearest and dearest to his heart. Since 2004, Stanley has been a volunteer, a donor, and a tireless cheerleader for the beloved holiday tradition.
When he started that part-time job in our housekeeping department, he could not have known that he would kindle a three-generation legacy of support for St. Paul’s that now includes his daughter and seven-year-old granddaughter. Or maybe he could: His enthusiasm is highly contagious.
“Lights of Hope inspires our family because it’s so important,” he says. “The money you give supports many different programs. It gives the doctors the tools and equipment they need to save lives. And it helps the hospital meet its greatest needs.”
Stanley is right. While hope and compassion are never in short supply, the same cannot be said of other essentials needed for exceptional care. But thanks to generous donors to Lights of Hope, we’re able to meet the most urgent needs in the hospitals and long-term care homes right across Providence Health Care.
Shining light at the darkest time of year
If you had been in the neighbourhood during the set up for most of the last 16 Lights of Hope, you’d likely find Stanley way up near the top of the display, hanging stars or tinkering with the bulbs.
“In the early days, I was one of the fellows who would climb up the scaffolding. But now, my wife doesn’t want me on anything taller than a step ladder.” Stanley laughs, “She says I have to leave the climbing to the young people.”
“I remember one year, I forgot to tell her it was Lights of Hope set up. It rained a lot that day and when I got home, I was covered in mud. She thought I had been out playing soccer.”
“But that’s okay! It’s part of the experience. Rain, or shine, or snow, I love it. And every year, I’ve encouraged friends and family to come and be part of the team. I was so happy last year when my daughter and granddaughter joined me!”
Once the display is officially lit, Stanley and his family love to visit the Lights. “Every year, we attend the community celebration with the fireworks and the food and the activities. And when visitors come over the holidays, Lights of Hope is a ‘must visit!’”
All in the family
Although Patricia Wong is not quite as seasoned in the set-up department as her dad, she’s just as passionate. Maybe more. “Our family owes so much to St. Paul’s and to Providence Health Care. I had my gall bladder out at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital. And my daughter was born by emergency C-section at St. Paul’s.”
Patricia was still a full month away from her due date. She was out having dim sum when she stopped by St. Paul’s for her routine fetal heart monitoring appointment. Patricia recalls that the doctors looked at the monitor and said, “You aren’t leaving the hospital. Your baby needs to be delivered. Now!” Despite the unexpectedly early arrival, mom and baby were fine.
“When something like that happens, and everything turns out perfectly, you just can’t explain how grateful you are.” So Patricia began looking for ways to give back to St. Paul’s.
Small business. Big impact.
Patricia explains that after her daughter was born, she wanted to spend more time with her family. That was the spark that turned into Chef & Co Canada. “I am a personal stylist and designer. I design aprons for chefs around the world.”
“Our family is full of both medical and food professionals, so I know that health comes first and that hospitals need all the support they can get,” Patricia says. “That’s when the idea of being a corporate donor hit me. So for the last two years, I have donated a portion from the sale of every apron to the Lights of Hope.”
The experience has been overwhelmingly positive. “I love how even a small business like mine can make a real difference. The people I work with love it, too. Chefs are very involved in the community and want to give back, especially when they don’t have to cook,” she laughs. “They know that when they buy my aprons, they’re not just supporting Chef & Co Canada, they’re supporting St. Paul’s.”
Your gift is just the beginning
“So you see,” Stanley says, “Big or small, everyone can give back to the community. Sometimes it’s money. Sometimes it’s time. Sometimes it’s both. Get creative!”
“And teach the younger generation, too,” he adds. “I did that with my daughter and now she’s doing it with my granddaughter.” You can hear the pride in his voice.
Patricia smiles. “My dad is amazing.”
“Well,” says Stanley, “When you want to give back, you can always find a way.”
Give back. Give hope. Give today.