A generous legacy of bravery and love

Twenty years ago my experience with the issue of mental illness was limited to homeless people I’d see on the street. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought and basically ignored each of them as I passed by.

Today, I look at mental health so differently that I’ve actually made the decision to honour The Royal in my will. How did I get from there to here?
It started with volleyball.

You may have heard of the annual HOPE Beach Volleyball tournament which raises money for a number of charities. The year that I began volunteering at HOPE I, fortunately, got to meet and spend time with a representative from one of the recipient charities, The Royal Ottawa.

Photo of Barry Simms holding a portable sleep device

Intrigued, I began to read about mental illness and it was described as the ‘invisible’ illness. Considering one in five Canadians are affected by mental illness, I realized that I had been incredibly lucky that no one in my family had ever been challenged by mental illness.

This feeling of gratitude compelled me to make my first of several donations to The Royal. I wanted to see the impact of my gift now and have made a purchase of a portable sleep device for The Royal’s Sleep Disorders Clinic. Using this device, the Sleep Clinic physicians and technologists are able to screen inpatients without them having to leave their area of care and allow out-patients to be screened from home.  Having this portable system has also been valuable for pre-screening patients and in reducing wait times.

Soon after that first donation; I was invited to tour The Royal. During this tour, I was fascinated to witness the research taking place. The Royal integrates research into patient care wherever possible. It was a revelation to me that science could unlock the mysteries of the mind. I learned about blood tests that could (possibly) diagnose depression and other disorders. I also learned about drug treatments that could be individualized to each patient.

My experiences inside The Royal were certainly eye-opening. Coincidentally I met up with a friend of mine who is a physician at The Royal in the inpatient youth program. I was tremendously touched by the passion my friend exhibited. She described her team working hard to help youth become healthy again and families learn to manage their loved one who was challenged by mental illness.

I was also impressed by The Royal’s public education campaigns to raise awareness and combat the stigma that unfortunately still clings to mental illness. Topics can range from: how to find happiness in a busy world, fatherhood, and mental health, family caregiving experiences in schizophrenia and the list goes on. Many of the public seminars, entitled, “Conversations at The Royal,” have been standing room only! My admiration for this organization continued to grow.

During this time in my life, my mother sadly passed away. I was now the last in the Sims generation and found myself reflecting on my own mortality. The time had come in my life to think about the kind of legacy I wanted to leave for the future. The more thought I gave to this subject, the more I felt a bequest to The Royal Ottawa was the right thing to do. I think the organization is doing incredible work – and I want to support it.

When I contacted the Foundation about setting up my bequest, I was provided with one key contact and the process was warm, personal and simple. Through research, I know The Royal can solve some of the mental health challenges that affect so many, too many of us.  I’ll likely never meet the people helped by my bequest, but it feels good to know that I have made a difference.

If you are considering a legacy gift to The Royal and would like to learn about the difference you could make – I encourage you to contact Ann. You will be glad you did…

Barry Sims