Archie Verspeeten’s long and storied life came to an end on Saturday but his impact across southwestern Ontario will be felt for generations of cancer patients thanks to his parting gift: $20 million to the London Health Sciences Foundation.
The gift, in the names of both Archie and his wife Irene who died of cancer in 2017, marks the largest ever single donation to a hospital foundation in the region’s history and foundation staff say it will “revolutionize” cancer care for patients across Middlesex, Elgin, Oxford, Perth, Huron, Grey, Bruce, Lambton and Kent counties who are all served by the London Regional Cancer Program.
Before his death, the LHSF said that Verspeeten expressed that losing his wife and two of his sons to the disease “intensified my determination to create a lasting impact in the battle against this devastating disease.”
He said the gift, which was given before he passed, was more than a financial investment.
“It represents a strategic move toward finding a cure for cancer and reshaping the LRCP into a sanctuary of hope and healing. I sincerely hope this contribution will not only advance efforts toward a cure but also enhance the quality of life for patients, allowing them to live comfortably despite the challenges of the disease.”
In honour of the Verspeetens, the program out of London Health Sciences Centre’s Victoria campus, will be renamed the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre. The donation also brings the total that the Verspeetens have donated to the foundation to $27 million.
“Our dad wanted us to come down here and do this, it was something that he wanted done. He would’ve hated today because he didn’t like people knowing what he’s doing, it’s easier for him just to write a cheque and let us get all the accolades for it, I guess,” said Dennis Verspeeten.
“At the end of the day, my dad and mother, they just wanted to eradicate this disease so that it doesn’t have to happen to people the way it’s happened to our family.”
The announcement Tuesday morning was met with thunderous applause. Dr. Kevin Chan, acting CEO of LHSC, told those gathered that he is a cancer survivor himself, calling it one of the most “horrendous” times of his life, and that he lost his brother, MP Arnold Chan, to that same type of cancer.
“One in two people get affected with cancer sometime in their lifetime. This will transform care for a million people,” Chan told reporters after the announcement.
“This is an absolutely transformational gift and I want to thank the Verspeeten family from the bottom of my heart.”
Archie Verspeeten, 92, grew tobacco and was the founder of a successful trucking company before focusing his efforts on philanthropy in the last 25 years of his life, an obituary reads.
He died at the Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital on Nov. 25. A funeral mass is scheduled for Wednesday in Delhi, Ont., where he spent his entire adult life.
The official renaming of the London Regional Cancer Program to the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre is expected to take place in spring of 2024.
With files from Global News’ Amy Simon.
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