Helen Ching-Kircher has always been there for others. At Sinai Health, she found a team that was there for her
Helen Ching-Kircher considers her visits to Sinai Health an integral part of her life. As someone who lives with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that can cause debilitating joint pain and damage, every day is an exercise in coping, adapting and rising to the challenge.
For years, Helen’s condition was so severe that sometimes it would take her up to four hours to loosen up and get going in the morning. Daily activities such as dressing, cutting food, walking or climbing stairs became near-impossible tasks.
After decades of living with the pain and unable to find anyone who could give her the kind of hope and reassurance she needed, Helen’s fortunes changed when she met Dr. Edward Keystone, who founded the Rebecca MacDonald Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“Dr. Keystone is a visionary in my books,” says Helen. “He was the first person to tell me that help was avail-able, and that, with treatment, I would get better. You can’t imagine how encouraging those words were to me.”
Under the care of Dr. Keystone and his team, Helen’s condition improved dramatically. The custom-ized treatment plan Dr. Keystone developed for Helen allowed her to return to her normal pace of life. Treatments became something she looked forward to, because with each passing day, she learned new ways to live fully while managing her pain and condition.
“Helen was fortunate that she came at a time when innovative biologic drugs were coming into view,” explains Dr. Keystone. “She has done really well on these therapies. We’re talking 20 years now, and if you look at her hands you cannot tell she has rheumatoid arthritis.”
“Thanks to Dr. Keystone and his team, the quality of my life is not diminished because of arthritis,” says Helen. “Instead, it is enhanced because of my monthly treatments and I can live a robust and energetic life.”
For Helen, who is Dealer Principal, President and CEO of DFC Auto Group and an ardent philanthropist, giving back has always been integral to who she is. Her experience with “Dr. Keystone and his Angels,” as she refers to her care team, reaffirmed her commitment to helping others and has made championing Sinai Health one of her great passions for more than 20 years.
A longtime supporter of the Arthritis Research Foundation, now part of Sinai Health Foundation, she was the title sponsor of Day at the Races for 18 years of its 20-year run, giving more than $275,000. Since 2016, Helen’s company, Porsche Centre Downtown Toronto, has also been the title sponsor of the annual Leadership Sinai Porsche Rally in support of family reproductive health at Sinai Health. This two-day event brings together car enthusiasts to participate in driving experiences in luxury high-end Porsches. Last year’s event raised over $50,000.
In keeping with her enduring commitment to Sinai Health, Helen is always looking for new ways to tangibly contribute to the organization and the community it serves. When she learned that Sinai Health Foundation had created its CEO Fund to support front-line workers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen was among the first donors to contribute.
She has also generously given $200,000 in support of Dr. Keystone, including her most recent gift of $100,000 to support a Sinai 100 Chair in his honour. One of a series of endowed Chairs created to celebrate Sinai Health’s trailblazers and the 100th anniversary of Mount Sinai Hospital in 2023, this prestigious Chair will help Sinai Health recruit and fund the work of the next generation’s leaders in arthritis and autoimmune disease.
The cause is especially close to Helen’s heart, as it gives her the opportunity to honour Dr. Keystone, who has had such a profound impact on her life, and to help improve treat-ment options and offer hope for others living with arthritis.
“Sinai Health, Dr. Keystone and all of the wonderful people there make patients their priority,” Helen says. “Through medical expertise, great skills and the provision of old-fashioned compassion and care, they have created the conditions I can enthusiastically support year after year. I think this is why giving back to Sinai Health is so important to me.”