Story Posted: 2023-10-31

From patient to philanthropist: Ruby Dyck wants her story to inspire others to give

From the Spirit Newsletter: The voice of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation.

Ruby Dyck’s journey in philanthropy began with personal connections to St. Paul’s Hospital. She found herself spending increased time within the Hospital’s walls as she bid farewell to family members who journeyed through Palliative Care. Ruby also began her own battle with a rare, incurable cancer that she lives with each day. After ten years of searching for answers, she was diagnosed in 2006 with a “one-in-a-million” cancer, Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma (ACC).

She states, “I am a warrior, and each and every day is a gift. It is truly a miracle”. Through these difficult experiences, Ruby has developed a personal understanding of the critical importance of having access to specialized care without having to leave the province or the country, and she is acutely aware of the need to retain surgeons and healthcare professionals.

So when Ruby saw a picture of Dr. Peter Spafford with the new da Vinci Surgical Robot, a spark ignited within her. “When I first saw that picture… I was just amazed that this was actually going to happen,” Ruby says. “And when it happened as quickly as it did, I felt very motivated. Supporting it was something that was close to my heart and it just felt like the right thing to do.”

Dr. Spafford had been one of her late husband’s specialists, and as she followed the story of the cutting-edge robotic technology being brought to the Hospital, she was struck once again by his dedication to providing high-quality health care in the province. She was also directly inspired by Merlis Belsher’s donation to the project, and his personal story.

“The fact that Merlis Belsher had lost a son and the Robot [Daryl] was named after him, and that he was generous enough to donate funds… he’s to be admired,” she said. “It’s all about inspiring other people and it did inspire me.” Ruby was stirred to action, leading her to provide a phenomenal $100,000 gift toward the Robot. She also has made a provision in her estate plan to support the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital, and the Hospice at Glengarda.

Ruby comes by her giving nature honestly. The youngest of 13 children, her parents created a very giving home atmosphere.

In speaking of them, Ruby remarks, “They lived through the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War I, and World War II. They were financially successful but continued to live a frugal lifestyle, and their strong faith motivated them to give a certain percentage of their income to those who were less fortunate. They also gave fresh garden produce, home-baked goods, homemade soups and the gift of company to those who needed support. That was just a part of who they were.”

Now Ruby wants to pass on that same tradition of giving to her grandchildren, to whom she’s very close. She hopes her donation inspires them to be similarly generous, and helps them to understand an important motto that she holds dear in her own life: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

“That’s what I try to instill in my grandchildren: if you want something done, do it yourself. Don’t rely on anyone else.”

Through her philanthropy and by sharing her story, Ruby hopes to influence the way health care is delivered in Saskatchewan by supporting innovation, and she wants to inspire others to do the same.


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