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An innovative new program supports out-of-town parents with sick babies

Aug. 27, 2020

Few things are more upsetting than worrying about your sick baby. Just ask the parents whose high-risk newborns are hospitalized at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

But families who don’t live near Mount Sinai have another added stress: on top of caring for their infant and recovering from the delivery, they need to find an affordable place to stay.

“Families in need would normally stay at Toronto’s Ronald McDonald House while their babies recover in the Newton Glassman NICU at Mount Sinai,” says Matt D’Orsay. “But with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ronald McDonald House has not been an option for these families.”

Matt, a partner at Ellington Corporate Real Estate Advisors, has launched an innovative initiative that’s bridging this gap for parents who need a place to stay while their sick babies gain strength.

“When COVID-19 initially hit, we began looking at the need to create flexible space options to accommodate all aspects of society during the pandemic. Our focus initially with the hospitals was to identify collaboration opportunities, in case Ontario needed pop-up field hospitals and testing sites,” says Matt.

That’s how the Homes for Heroes program was born. Matt and his partners at Ellington decided to leverage their real estate savvy and build a new partnership to tap into vacant spaces for parents and families in need.

“We were working for free because we had all been impacted and wanted to play our part to help Ontario recover from this,” says Matt.

Homes for Heroes is leveraging empty residence rooms at Innis College and Chestnut Residence. The rooms were generously donated by the University of Toronto and furnished for parents by donations from Ikea and Canadian Tire.

“We’re so grateful to the whole team at the University of Toronto for their quick response and tremendous support since the beginning of this pandemic,” says Matt.

The Homes for Heroes program is just one part of Ellington Partners’ larger fundraising initiative, Road To Recovery. The campaign’s name aims to inspire collaborative action while giving a nod to the power of Toronto’s “hospital row” on University Avenue.

“Toronto has some of the best hospitals in the world affiliated with one of the best universities in the world, right here on University Avenue.”

With the support of their strategic partners Matt and the team at Ellington have raised $20,000 for Homes for Heroes, which has been equally split between Sinai Health Foundation and SickKids Foundation. At Sinai Health, the donated funds have been used to support urgent needs that have arisen during the pandemic including off-setting the costs associated with the Homes for Heroes Project.

“The funds go a long way to helping families,” says Matt, shouting out David Kim, the University of Toronto’s Dean of Residence & Director of Student Life, for doing everything possible to reduce the operating costs associated with the rooms.

“It’s been wonderful to see this type of large-scale collaboration between some of Toronto’s most iconic institutions to solve a problem in Toronto and get us through the crisis,” says Matt. “We’re really grateful for the support we’ve gotten from our strategic partners donating financially as well as their time, services and space.”

Now, the Road to Recovery team is gearing up for the reopening of schools.

“Our focus will be to continue to support our Healthcare partners throughout the reopening of our economy. We’ll need ongoing collaboration and donor support as we continue the fight against COVID.”


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