Hamilton Health Sciences
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Margaret and Charles Juravinski 

A couple from humble beginnings donate $43 million in support of health care in Hamilton

On September 18, 2003, Margaret and Charles Juravinski unveiled the new name of the Cancer Centre at a special ceremony attended by patients, staff and community members. The name, Margaret & Charles Juravinski Cancer Centre honours the couple's generous $5-million donation to the Cancer Centre's expansion campaign.

Both Charles and Margaret love to give. They say there is no other feeling quite like it. Perhaps that's because they know what it's like to need money.

Charles was born in Saskatchewan in November 1929, just as the Great Depression began. There was not a penny to spare in his household, and with no plumbing and no heat, things were far from easy. His whole family had to work to keep food on the table, which was tough because jobs were few and far between.

When Charles was 12, the Juravinski family moved to Hamilton. The outbreak of World War II had created an abundance of jobs and the Juravinskis were anxious to work. Charles was too young to fight in the war so he contributed to the household by working multiple jobs, quite often taking on up to three at a time. He picked beans, worked as a delivery boy, shined shoes and held a paper route.

Eventually he met Margaret, the daughter of a hard-working butcher who also struggled to get his family through the Depression. Like Charles, Margaret knew the feeling of poverty. Their relationship grew and in September 1956, they got married.

After working in the construction industry for a while, Charles and his brother-in-law, Bill McCann, decided to start their own company. They launched WilChar Construction Ltd. in 1958. Their business grew and soon they were handling multi-million dollar projects, including industrial, commercial, high-density, residential and institutional buildings.

In 1971, WilChar Construction closed its doors, and Charles moved on to bigger and different things. With no prior knowledge of racetracks or horse racing, Charles took a chance and turned a farmer's field into Flamboro Downs, a multi-million dollar half-mile racetrack. He raced horses and ran the racetrack devotedly for the next 30 years.

"We had very few rules for employees at Flamboro Downs, but Charlie always instilled in everybody that anybody could work for him as long as you didn't steal from him, you didn't lie to him and that you treated his wife and his dog with respect," said Richard Jacob, a friend and former colleague of Charles.

Throughout his entire life, Charles has maintained an impeccable work ethic and always achieved his goals. "He's driven, absolutely driven. He's like one of his race horses, he gets the bit in his mouth and nothing can stop him until he accomplishes what he sets out to do," said Bill Gregory, a friend of the Juravinskis.

Add Margaret's dedication, energy and wisdom to the mix and it's no wonder Charles and Margaret have achieved success. Although Flamboro Downs thrived for years, the industry was changing and Charles decided it was time to move on. In 2003, he sold the racetrack to Magna Entertainment Corporation for $72 million.

Today the Juravinskis spend their time and money improving health care in Hamilton. They believe health is the most important thing people have and say there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing they are contributing to people's health.

Before they began donating their money, the Juravinskis consulted their good friends Patrick and Barbara Keenan, who have been philanthropists for years. "We said, 'if you're going to do this, anonymity helps no one," said Patrick. "Put your name out there - do it, and in that way, you'll have an opportunity at leadership. And that's what's so important in philanthropy - is to accept the fact that you're going to be a target, but it's a very worthy target."

Since 2003, Juravinski has become a household name in Hamilton and both Margaret and Charles have established themselves as strong leaders within this community. They've lead by example and encouraged others to give. In the process, they've also become a source of inspiration.

The Juravinskis' gifts to health care in the Hamilton region:

$15 million - Cornerstone of Care Campaign (Hamilton Health Sciences)
    5 million - Juravinski Cancer Centre (Hamilton Health Sciences)
    2 million - Hamilton General Hospital Surgical Suite (Hamilton Health Sciences)
    1 million - Surgical Fellowship Fund (Hamilton Health Sciences)
    7 million - St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton
    5 million - St. Peter's
    5 million - St. Joseph's Villa
    2 million - Wellwood Centre
    1 million - McMaster University research centre
$43 million


Hamilton Health Sciences • Hamilton, Ontario • 905.521.2100