Never mind that Pat Gilbert has dogged this Gilda's Club idea for a decade. Like a puppy with a bone, she hasn't let her attention waver from the end goal, and along the way, she passed her enthusiasm to literally hundreds of people who have jumped on board.

In June, Gilda's Club opened its red door to the public and cancer families and individuals are joining for camaraderie, support, information... a place to be with cancer. Based on the model developed to honour the life of comedienne Gilda Radner, Gilda's Club is a milestone for cancer care in this community and closes that red door to nobody!

But the 10,000 square foot facility wouldn't be standing at 10 Quarry Ridge Rd if it weren't for literally a million dollars worth of donated materials and labour.

Joan Lehman volunteered her considerable talent to oversee the construction of the project and as we talked about the miracle that is this building, she expressed pride that the entire facility was put up for $2 million. Plus donated time and materials.

For instance, Bertram Construction chose to celebrate its 75th anniversary by acting as project managers, donating all office work, oversite at no cost. Bertram President, Lisa Bertram, was building her own home at the same time and frequently pulled trades off her own project to meet a Gilda's deadline.

Architect Michael McKnight joined the preliminary discussions group and took real leadership by putting together a design team. There was never a bill for Michael's time. Michael worked closely with Joan Lehman and Laurie Lamb of Inter Art Interiors, who also donated all of her professional fees. Sounds quick but this involved hundreds and hundreds of hours of meetings, board presentations, presentations to Barrie Home Builderss and Construction associations.

Dave Dobinson and Eisses Brothers helped with excavation. Pratt Homes leases the land, Barrie Glass and Mirror, Bathworks, Benjamin Moore Paints... all gifts. Tim Klementti and Gym Con helped with flooring. "We held meetings when we were awarding contracts and asked for 'the best price'," says Joan. "Many said they would just give..."

... like Earle Graham and Lakelands Irrigation who gifted all the irrigation time and materials. Landscape Ontario, Georgian Branch who gave $80,000 worth of work and got supplies at best or no cost. It kept going... throughout the building... from framing, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, roofing. There are three kitchens in the building (children's area, community room, and staff) and Glen Prairie of Total Living Concepts did them all. Ora Kitchens and Bath in Orillia did all the millwork for the art studio... a straight gift. Orillia's System Six, Gord Cooke, did all the stucco as a gift, to honour his wife who is living with cancer right now.

Sarjeant Co, Atlas Block, Simcoe Block, Simcoe Building Centre... no competition and a lot of co-operation. John Marvin of POI Business Interiors found furnishings for the admin area... he openbed his warehouse and told Gilda's to come have a look. Retired school principal and volunteer Sharon Cook co-ordinated all the furnishings and electronics, right down to set up. Bob Greer of Georgian Protection gave the security system, installed it and ensured it was up and running. Owen Sign Craft donated all the signage. All the unistone was donated by Unilock; Outdoor Living Concepts, the landscaping wing of Gregor Homes installed it.

This is a tiny fraction of the generosity of Barrie (and Orillia) individuals and businesses as Gilda's red door opened last month. Gilda's has had receptions for everyone who worked on the building and the site. They've had receptions for donors. They've had media celebrations. And in September, once all the 'glitches' have been ironed out, they'll have the political official opening. Donors are suitably recognized at the building site.

All told, this event is another of Barrie's miracles. A decade in the doing, with fundraising during aggressive campaigns by Georgian College, RVH, Hospice Simcoe, Barrie Public Library... this community's businesses and individuals, giving what they could afford to give, and more, have created a remarkable service for growing numbers of families.

Thanks, Gilda Radner, for the initial inspiration. And thanks Pat, Tom, Joan, Laurie, John, Lisa, Michael, and on and on and on...

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