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giving back

Donald Ross stands in Toronto Rehab’s street lab, which allows patients using mobility devices to navigate a virtual streetscape.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The Gift: $500,000

The Cause: Toronto Rehab Foundation

The Reason: Funding spinal cord rehabilitation and sleep apnea research programs

Donald Ross had been involved with Toronto's Lyndhurst Hospital, now part of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, for years before a family accident gave him a new perspective on the hospital's programs.

His daughter was at a cottage when she fell off a balcony onto a rock, severing her spine and requiring extensive rehabilitation. "When my daughter had the accident and was paralyzed, it just brought it all to life again," Mr. Ross recalled from his home in Toronto.

He became even more involved with Toronto Rehab, donating more than $500,000 to fund spinal cord programs and sleep apnea research. He also led a fundraising drive to rename the lobby of Lyndhurst after its co-founder, and his late friend, John Counsell, a Second World War veteran who had been paralyzed during the war.

But that is just part of Mr. Ross's charitable activity. He is also involved in dozens of arts and educational charities, ranging from the Ontario Arts Council and Lakefield College School to a small theatre group called Smile Theatre, which performs musicals at seniors' homes. Mr. Ross, an investment banker, is involved in many organizations; when he recently won an award for his charitable work by the St. George's Society, it listed his contributions to 112 groups.

"I had to get up and defend myself as to why I was so disconnected and why I had such an attention deficit," he joked. "It's so diverse, people think I'm totally crazy, which is probably the case."