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Biggest. Gift. Ever.

Media including the Vancouver Sun and CBC are reporting the completion of a $21.4 million gift to BC Cancer Foundation made by Burnaby property developer William McCarthy from a legacy fund created under the will of his grandfather John Jambor, who died in 1991. It appears that Mr. Jambor’s will left a shopping plaza at 5000 Kingsway to a charitable fund managed by Mr. McCarthy. Mr. McCarthy spent the last 20 years developing the property to build up its value and has now fulfilled his grandfather’s intentions with a donation and buyback transaction.

Some of the news reports, including both of those linked above, are referring to this as the largest charitable gift in BC’s history. “Largest charitable gift” is an overstatement; larger gifts that immediately come to mind are the $50 million Blusson gift to UBC in 1998 and the $22 million Beedie family gift to SFU in 2011. The Cancer Foundation’s own news release calls the Jambor-McCarthy legacy the “largest charitable bequest to a single beneficiary in B.C.’s history”. I expect that claim is true, as ‘bequest’ means a gift made under a will and the Blusson and Beedie gifts were made during the donors’ lifetimes.

But my nit-picking over the somewhat sloppy reporting shouldn’t overshadow the tremendous importance of this gift. I recently had an opportunity to tour the BC Cancer Agency (the research organization whose work the Foundation supports) and was very impressed with the world-class research that is taking place in our city. I have no doubt the income from this legacy will be put to good use. I also know of many other charitable organizations doing equally important work in our communities. With governments at all levels looking to pare costs, private donations are more important than ever to keep these important institutions healthy. I hope that this gift inspires others to consider leaving part of their estate to support charitable causes important to them.