A Community Builds a Home

With a history that goes back almost to the birth of Confederation, PCL Construction is celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday by reflecting on the role that PCL and its clients, the projects they have built together, and the communities they served have played in contributing to the country’s growth over the past century.
Don Cherry with the Darling Home for Kids project
team.

The Darling Home for Kids nearing substantial
completion.​

In this PCL Canada 150 profile, PCL Constructors Canada Inc. (Toronto) looks back on building one of the Toronto district’s most rewarding projects, the Darling Home for Kids.

In the late 1990s, the Cedarbrook Society—a nonprofit children’s charitable organization meant to optimize the care and quality of life for children with complex medical issues—started a fundraising campaign to develop a home-like community hospice program in Milton, Ontario. The society had a vision for a centre designed to be a home away from home that could provide high-quality care services for medically fragile children and would also offer parents respite from the complex care routines that come with caring for a child with such needs. At that time, there were no facilities in Ontario that combined respite and palliative care for children in such an environment. All that was needed was for the Society to find a way to reach the ears of those who would be willing to help them get the project off the ground.

Enter a Canadian Legend

In 1998, the Darling Home caught the attention of an unlikely friend: hockey commentator and Canadian media icon Don Cherry. He and his daughter Cindy caught wind of the Cedarbrook Society’s campaign and felt a connection to its family-centred philosophy. He mentioned the project several times on his weekly TV show Coach’s Corner and on National Hockey Night in Canada, bringing a lot of publicity to the Home and becoming the public face of the cause. Cherry played such an integral role in the home’s development that for the first three years after its grand opening it was called the Rose Cherry Home for Kids, after his late wife.

Although Cherry certainly helped put a spotlight on this campaign, the Cedarbrook Society still needed a contractor willing to donate construction labour and materials virtually for free. In 2003, the society approached PCL Toronto to perform the work. Moved by their vision, PCL decided to help in any way it could.

Not only was PCL working for free, but it also needed to source trade contractors who would be willing to donate their work. Luckily, the company has had the honour of working with some of the best and brightest in the construction industry. Over time, the project team managed to recruit more than 175 generous suppliers and trade contractors, uniting them for this worthy cause. With labour power accounted for, the team moved on to the next phase.

A Community in Motion

Every project brings with it a wide variety of challenges. Owing to the special nature of the Darling Home for Kids, a particularly diverse set of hurdles stood before PCL and the recruited companies. The especially cold winter of 2003–2004 was followed by an unusually wet spring, and the rural location made construction difficult. Also, with everyone having committed to working for free, time and resources were in short supply.

“The consultants, the trade contractors, and PCL were all in the same predicament,” explained superintendent George Henry when asked about the project. “Everyone had donated their time, but we each had other jobs and client commitments that also required our attention, so the Darling Home for Kids had to deal with competing demands on everyone’s time.” 

To overcome these challenges, PCL relied not only on the dedication of the subcontractors but also on exceptional support from the community. Cherry once again proved his devotion to the cause by visiting the site on a regular basis, which thrilled the workers and turned even the toughest of them into awestruck admirers. He also attended the PCL trade appreciation barbecue to shake hands with those who were working tirelessly to get his project to the finish line. 

Cherry wasn’t the only frequent visitor to the site. As a result of his efforts, the Darling Home for Kids had a very high profile in the region. A number of donors had spent more than six years contributing to the cause, and all of them wanted to stop by to see its progress. Other visitors included the mayors of Milton and Oakville and the lieutenant governor of Ontario, as well as several media outlets. 

Local businesses also lent their support. The Ontario Masonry Association, for example, offered the free services of its students if they could attend some of their classes on-site for a more hands-on learning experience. Similarly, Dufferin Aggregates, an expanding company with a quarry located less than three kilometers from the site, donated granular materials and limestone screenings. These were just two of several companies wanting to give something back to the community that raised them up. 

From players such as students at the Ontario Masonry Association to names like Don Cherry, PCL recognizes that the project would not have succeeded had it not been for the hard work and dedication of the community.

The Power of Canadian Values

The Darling Home for Kids reached substantial completion in the fall of 2004, both under budget and within schedule. Despite the many challenges and sacrifices that accompany a charity project like the Darling Home for Kids, the outstanding support and unity that it inspired made all the risks worthwhile. This Canadian emphasis on looking out for every member of our community is one of PCL’s core values and is what we continue to strive for with every project. We are proud to have played a small part in making the Cedarbrook Society’s vision a reality, having done so with an outstanding community that walked with us every step of the way.​

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