August 14, 2019
Love of family motivates two decades of philanthropy
Judy Yamamoto remembers very well the day she first heard about Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto.
It was August 2000 and she was attending a charity golf tournament for professionals, like her, who worked in the financial services industry.
During lunch, a young boy came to the podium and shared the story of how RMHC Toronto had kept his family together – and by his side – while he was fighting for his life in the hospital.
“It struck a chord with me,” says Judy. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow.’”
Just four years earlier, Judy’s younger sister, Dianne, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The Yamamoto family came together in Calgary from across the country to be by her and her husband Richard's side to help care for their four young children while she underwent long and difficult months of treatment. The extended family stayed together in a house offered up by a friend.
Judy with Dianne and Richard's four children in 1996
“I remember how grateful we were to have a place to stay together.”
It meant someone could always be with Dianne in the hospital, and someone else was always available to be with the children, the youngest of whom was only a few months old.
Judy donated to RMHC Toronto the very day of the golf tournament and has continued to give for 19 years – both as a monthly donor and as an Adopt-a-Room donor. She is one of our longest-standing philanthropists.
“I get what RMHC Toronto does. It’s good for the patient to have their whole family around and for siblings to have a normal life. The House is a safe place.”
Judy also recognizes the strength that can come when families are around other people in similar situations.
When she talks to her now 29-year-old niece, Erin, about the time of her mother’s battle with breast cancer in 1996, she tells her she doesn’t remember it as a scary time.
“That’s what you want for your kids,” says Judy. “You don’t want it be to scary. You want it to be as normal as possible.”
Now retired, Judy continues to treasure her family time. She’s aunt to a niece and seven nephews, all now adults.
The Yamamoto sisters: Grace, Shirley, Judy and Dianne
Graham, Erin, Kevin, Mark, Richard and Dianne in 2012
The family – which includes her two other sisters – rallied together again this year when Dianne was diagnosed with lung cancer. She sadly succumbed to the disease in June. The extended family is continuing with its plan for an Alaskan cruise in September though. It was Dianne’s dream that they all go together.
Judy says they will find comfort in each others’ company.
And that’s the very thing that motivates her to keep giving to RMHC Toronto.
“You give comfort, and that is such a wonderful thing.”