The Philanthropic Pivot

May 14, 2020

Responding to the changing COVID-19 story

By: Jonathon Lyon


In basketball, when you pivot, one foot is firmly planted while you turn your vantage point to all directions to consider what to do.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all of us to pivot in our personal and work lives. Businesses, the public sector, and charities alike have had to look at things a little differently as the world changes around us. It’s been no different for the Health Sciences Centre Foundation.

Our pivot foot remains firmly planted in our overall work of rallying donors to help Health Sciences Centre save lives, change lives, and bring comfort to families throughout Manitoba. But with COVID-19, we had to pivot away temporarily from our major ongoing initiatives. Instead, for the past two months, we have focused primarily on raising funds for our COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund. Our donors have responded speedily and generously.

Through the generosity of our donors, we have been able to accomplish some very significant things. It became very clear early on that with hospital visits prohibited, patients and their families needed ways to communicate with each other. Our donors responded quickly and supported our purchase of iPads for patients in the Intensive Care Unit and our funding of phone, television, and integrated bedside terminal service at 400 beds.

Then, with the global supply chain for personal protective equipment compromised in an unprecedented way, HSC’s brilliant Dr. Christian Petropolis started designing and testing 3D moulds that could be used for protective silicone masks, which are now being produced locally. Our donors supported the research and development. It was a key contribution to a made-in-Manitoba solution that will have a lasting impact.

As COVID-19 took hold, it became clear that our frontline health care workers were facing unprecedented risks and bearing unusual stress. And so, our donors stepped forward again. Through their generosity, we were able to fund multiple hotel rooms for health care workers to wash and rest between long shifts and before returning home. And, in partnership with Earls Restaurants, we were able to provide 11,200 complimentary meals to frontline health care workers. Our donors understood the need and demonstrated their gratitude and admiration for HSC’s frontline personnel.

So what’s next for a hospital foundation now that the initial urgencies around the response to COVID-19 have settled down? Well, again, we look to pivot. One foot firmly planted in the big picture, while we consider many opportunities to rally our donors to enhance Manitoba’s largest hospital.

What that means practically is that our COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund will stay open and active. It’s clear that the COVID-19 story will be on all of our radars until a vaccine is developed and disseminated. That said, health care is bigger than COVID-19 and we are starting to return our attention to ongoing projects that will enhance health care for Manitobans. We see it as our responsibility to open up the conversation to the many other ways we can work together to elevate health care.

For example, through the pandemic, we have learned how useful and important communications technology can be in providing connection and delivering care. And so, as we pivot, we look at our ambient assisted living initiative (AAL) with renewed vigour. AAL is a body of work that focuses on using communications technology to deliver care at home, especially for seniors with cognitive impairment or mobility challenges. This includes using tablets, virtual reality, and other tools that help keep people at home for as long as possible instead of hospitals or long-term care homes. We’ve learned through COVID-19 how important that can be.

And so, we pivot. Like a basketball player deciding whether to pass or shoot, we look to help HSC deliver the best possible care with the best possible equipment. We aim to be nimble so the hospital can remain nimble, too. While much is unknown as the COVID-19 story unfolds, we do know that the generosity of Manitobans has always been a slam dunk. It always has been, and we are grateful.

Jonathon Lyon










Jonathon Lyon is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Health Sciences Centre Foundation,