The German-Coulter family is fulfilling the wish of their late daughter, Madeline Coulter, and the results have gone beyond their imaginations.
After losing the Grade 9 North Toronto CI student to depression in April, her mom Nicole German, father Chris Coulter, and brothers Sawyer and Zac Coulter immediately set out to raise $1 million in funds for North York General Hospital’s $7-million project to transform the Phillips House into a youth mental health out-patient facility.
As of early November more than $407,000 has been raised for the cause, called Shine Bright — The Maddie Project.
On a sunny, warm November day on the Phillips House grounds, German shared how the family has found solace through the wishes of their daughter.
“(Madeline) had been ill for quite some time and we’ve been surrounded by a community in the support of grieving, and this initiative has sort of helped us move forward every day,” she said. “It’s been inspiring in the sense that, not only for us or close family, but also for friends who will be able to have a legacy for Madeline, that was really driven by her wish.”
The 14-year-old had been treated at North York General’s Leslie and Sheppard facility, and had talked of raising money for a gym after learning the importance of diet and exercise in combating her illness.
Maddie loved the outdoors, and the Phillips House, resting atop a hill in the Leslie and Sheppard area, is rife with splendor.
“The representation of the gardens are very much in line with the person that she was: a person who loved the outdoors, whether it was time spent at the cottage or going to camp,” German said.
North York General has raised $6.4 million dollars so far.
Architectural firm Montgomery Sisam is leading the redesign, and is dedicated to maintaining the 15,000 square-foot structure’s integrity, said North York General’s vice president of donor relations, Alyson Geary.
“We’re so fortunate to have [Phillips House] in our backyard and to create a space that’s going to be a one-of-a-kind in Canada,” she explained. “There’s going to be no other facility like this — to be able to offer the care in a home-like setting is just amazing.”
The surrounding 1.2 acres of land will be turned into a sprawling garden. Designs for the greening of the area are not planted in place, but there is discussion of a vegetable garden.
What is known is each room in the Phillips House will have a focal point facing the gardens, as it helps to diminish the clinical feel of healing with a hint of home-like feel.
“That’s why we’re really excited to partner with the Phillips House project, because it’s hard enough to get a teenager to come out of the bedroom to go for dinner, or whatever, let alone a child that’s struggling with mental health to get them to go therapy,” German explained. “To bring them into an institutional setting is much more intimidating for them than coming to a home-like setting.”
The new vision for the Phillips House will bring together the child and adolescent day hospital programs, including those tending to eating disorders, from the Branson site, located at Bathurst and Finch, with the hospital programs at the Leslie and Sheppard site.
German said the family hopes to reach their target of $1 million before the hospital breaks ground in Spring 2016.