“Twenty years ago I never would have guessed that this is what I’d be doing, but it’s by far the most rewarding thing I’ve done. After I retire, I hope to keep giving back to a meaningful organization that is making a difference to others.”
Allan Bell was born in England, and immigrated to Canada with his family at age nine. He never imagined that, in July 2011, he would be standing on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a team of eighteen physicians, staff, and supporters from Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation. As part of a project to raise $50 million, Allan led a group initiative for the hospital expansion and to conquer the stigma of child and adolescent mental illness. The hike, a humbling experience for Allan, took seven days to ascend and two days back down, and was both physically and emotionally demanding. This Climb to Conquer was organized by the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation in collaboration with climb leader and documentary filmmaker, Ben Webster, and Canadian Adventure Productions.
His journey to the summit began long before he set foot in Tanzania. Allan’s professional background was in the food and beverage industry, and in 1991, in partnership with his sister, he opened his own restaurant, the Pine Apple Inn & Bakehouse in Unionville. Allan was a hands-on owner who knew all his customers, and his restaurant was built on repeat clientele. Their business also offered a full catering service, so his extensive background in event planning was a natural fit when it came to various charitable endeavours. A modest Terry Fox fundraiser, attended by Mrs. Fox, was just the beginning and ultimately grew into significant support for Markham Stouffville Hospital. When learning of customers who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, a small golf tournament and luncheon was planned to raise funds to combat breast cancer and increase awareness.
Although the restaurant closed in 2001, while still involved with the golf tournament, Allan was approached by the organizers of the CIBC Celebration of Hope to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Association. In 2006, he was approached by Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) whose goal was a new breast health centre, and the contributions resulting from the golf tournament and the CIBC Celebration of Hope helped accomplish their vision. Half of the money went to MSH and half to the Canadian Breast Cancer Association. When people realized that the dollars were staying in the community, it became even more successful. The CIBC Celebration of Hope, hosted by radio personality, Erin Davis, recently celebrated its 27th Anniversary and is ongoing under the MSH umbrella.
“When small businesses support us, we are able to recognize them through social media and acknowledge their generosity.”
Allan strongly believes that all the years in the hospitality industry and his volunteer work brought him to where he is today as the Director, Community Relations and Corporate Partnerships for Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation (since September 2006). His passion for doing what he can to improve healthcare for the community he loves is evident to everyone who has worked with him.
In 2009, Markham Stouffville Hospital provided York Region Breast Cancer Friends an opportunity to be recognized for their support in the fight against breast cancer. YRBCF, a group Allan was a part of, chose to name the Mammography Centre in honour of Allan and his sister, Lesley, because of Allan’s passion to fundraise and his love for his sister who passed away in December 2002 after her brave struggle with breast cancer. When the announcement was made, Allan was moved beyond words.
“It was ironic that we’d been raising money for breast cancer all those years, never thinking it would affect us so close to home. It took on a whole new meaning, which made me even more driven to make a difference.”
Allan Bell is the recipient of the Anthony Roman Award from the Markham Board of Trade (November 2007) and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award (October 2012) in recognition of his significant contribution to the community. Allan spends his spare time volunteering as an M.C., and supporting community initiatives such as the annual Seniors Luncheon and Canada Day Celebration along with the Milliken Mills Children’s Festival, all produced by the City of Markham. Allan’s portrait was taken in the Allan and Lesley Bell Mammography Centre.