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Dozens of volunteers from a variety of building trades helped raise the money for Gilda's Club in Barrie, Ont. (Tim Fraser)
Dozens of volunteers from a variety of building trades helped raise the money for Gilda's Club in Barrie, Ont. (Tim Fraser)

Giving Back

Building a healing place Add to ...

The Donor: Tom McBride

The Gift: Raising $3.5-million

The Cause: Gilda's Club in Barrie, Ont.

The Reason: To build a community centre for people with cancer

When Tom McBride was asked to raise $3.5-million to build a Gilda's Club in Barrie, Ont., he became a bit anxious. The clubs are named after actor Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Ms. Radner wrote a best-selling book about living with cancer, and after her death her friends began establishing Gilda's Clubs across North America as community centres for people with cancer.

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Mr. McBride, a financial planner, was thrilled to be asked to head up the capital campaign for the Barrie club, but he wasn't sure where to start. "I thought oh, oh, how am I going to raise all this money?" he recalled from his office in Barrie.

He decided to approach two local construction associations, the Greater Barrie Home Builders Association and the Barrie Construction Association. "I knew they were great community-minded people," he said.

The groups, lead by Matt Pryce and Scott Ward, jumped at the opportunity. "They ended up saying 'let's build a house,'" Mr. McBride recalled. "They said, 'we'll try to get everything donated, including the land, and then we'll sell it and give you the proceeds.'"

The project came together fairly quickly and last June dozens of volunteers from a variety of trades teamed up for a weekend to build the house. "It was quite amazing to go there on a Friday and see a vacant lot with only a foundation," Mr. McBride said. "By Sunday night the place was completely built and ready to move in. There was even a barbeque there."

The house recently sold for $300,000, with all proceeds going to Gilda's Club. Thanks to that donation and many gifts in kind from the construction industry - including donated supplies, services and labour - Gilda's Club has been built and will have its grand opening next week. The 10,000-square-foot centre includes a large kitchen, several therapy rooms, a library, a teen room, quiet rooms and a garden. Several staff members will run numerous programs.

"It feels great," said Mr. McBride who credits the construction industry for its efforts. "It was a lot of pressure. But I found it a growth experience for me. On the other hand I'm glad it's over."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PwaldieGLOBE

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