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Philanthropists Dianne and Irving Kipnes, in their Edmonton. Alta. office on May 16, 2007.John Ulan/The Globe and Mail

The donors: Irving and Dianne Kipnes

The gift: $5-million

The cause: Partners In Health Canada

The reason: To support cancer work in Rwanda

A few months ago, Edmonton businessman Irving Kipnes and his wife, Dianne, were planning to make a $100,000 gift to Partners In Health Canada when they had a sudden change of mind.

The couple were so impressed by the charity’s cancer-treatment centre in Rwanda that they decided to donate $5-million instead. “We were absolutely mesmerized by the work they’ve done,” Mr. Kipnes recalled recently from his home in Edmonton. “We had given smaller amounts but we decided to make a bigger gift.”

Mr. and Ms. Kipnes have a long history of philanthropy in Alberta and they’ve donated millions of dollars to fund a wide variety of causes in arts, health care and education. But they’d never made a gift to an international project. They’d known Mark Brender, Partners In Health’s Canadian director, for years when he worked with Prostate Cancer Canada. When he moved to the PIH in 2011, the couple kept in touch and became enthralled with the charity’s work overseas, especially the project in Rwanda that provides cancer care to around 1,500 people.

The couple have returned to donating money back home and, in November, they made a $10-million gift to fund research and patient care at the Northern Alberta Urology Centre. Mr. Kipnes, 82, said they keep looking for more charities to support. “Both my wife and I are getting on in age,” he said. “We’ve made a fair chunk of money over the years and can’t find a forwarding address so we thought we’d better do something with it.”

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