Mary Pat Armstrong


Mary Pat Armstrong Toronto, ON
Award for Lifetime Achievement

Mary Pat Armstrong has been a committed community volunteer for over 30 years. A former university professor, Mary Pat’s mandate has always been to give back to a world that has been good to her. One of her greatest accomplishments to date is that of being Founding Director of the first Ronald McDonald House in Canada after losing her daughter Marion to cancer in 1976. Mary Pat knew first hand how devastating it was for an entire family when a child was seriously ill and wanted to build a place of refuge for families when their child needed life-saving care. Not only could families eliminate the exhausting time traveling between home and hospital—especially for those who lived far away—but they could also find support in the home-like environment. Since its launch in 1981, Ronald McDonald Houses have been built in close proximity to children’s hospitals in seven provinces throughout Canada. Today there are 12 Ronald McDonald Houses from coast to coast and Ronald McDonald House Charities has helped thousands of children by donating over $43 million to children’s charities nationwide. Determined to continue her mission of enhancing life for children suffering from cancer led Mary Pat to the dream of Camp Oochigeas, which she founded in 1982. Today the camp, which is located in Muskoka, is visited by hundreds of children yearly where they can continue chemotherapy and treatment while being just kids. Camp Oochigeas also offers AMyear round programs for children at the camp site, at the Hospital for Sick Children and in the community at no cost to the families. As Founding Director, Mary Pat is still involved as an ambassador, volunteer and donor. In 2002 she helped launch a campaign, raising over $6 million for the camp—helping to ensure that children living with cancer would be able to enjoy the camp for years to come. In 1999 Mary Pat began to focus her energies on how she could improve life for people with intellectual disabilities and became involved with a technology project called ConnectABILITY with Community Living Toronto.This project would provide training and educational opportunities through an interactive website for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Drawing from her own experiences with her daughter Jenny, Mary Pat saw how technology could impact her daughter’s life by teaching her new skills and connecting her to her peers. Mary Pat’s foresight for ConnectABILITY was not only how this cutting-edge project could affect her own community but also how it could profoundly impact countless people throughout Canada. This vision led Mary Pat to spearhead a $3 million capital campaign for the project. Today, ConnectABILITY’s “Off to School” program is used in every daycare and Early Years CentreinToronto where children with intellectual dis-abilities attend and its downloadable activities and training units are used by Early Childhood Educators throughout the province. Also as a member of Community Living Toronto’s Resource Development Committee, Mary Pat is collectively working with the association to secure revenue sources to fund new projects and opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. In addition, Mary Pat has also found the time to volunteer with the Toronto Children’s Chorus, Bloorview Children’s Hospital Foundation, Hospital for Sick Children, Branksome Hall School, and Women’s College Hospital among many others. Whether campaigning to build a camp where children with cancer can just be kids, creating a home environment for families and sick children to take refuge or creating limitless opportunities for people with special needs Mary Pat continues to push the margins of volunteerism on every level with passion and dedication to the cause.


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