How a SickKids patient turned her experience into a legacy

How a SickKids patient turned her experience into a legacy

For Maria-Jose Bouey, there wasn’t a particular moment in her life when she realized she wanted to leave a legacy behind.

“Growing up it was always a conversation, unfortunately, that life may not be forever. Thinking about my legacy was always a conversation I’ve had with my family, with my medical team. Even at a young age, it was like, ‘Okay, I have two dogs, I’m going to leave them to my parents,’” says Bouey. Now in her 30s, Bouey works as a motivational speaker and educator. Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, she now lives in the GTA.

At birth, Bouey was diagnosed with a rare congenital abnormality called Cloacal Exstrophy, affecting many of her abdominal organs and lower spine. At eight months, Bouey’s parents immigrated to Canada from Santiago, Chile for Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which was seen as her best hope for survival. Over the course of her young life, she had more than 60 major surgeries at SickKids, including two living-donor kidney transplants, the first in 2001 performed at SickKids where mom was her donor, and more recently at Toronto General Hospital where cousin Mauricio was her donor.

Those life-changing experiences turned her into a devoted advocate for SickKids. Even as a child, Bouey was inspired to support the Hospital. As an adult, she came to realize she wanted to establish a gift in her will to support patients like herself.

“Sometimes we’re fearful of those conversations, about estate planning and our wills, but other times we’re able to embrace them,” says Bouey. “For me it was empowering to embrace the changes that may come in my life, be they life-ending or life-changing, and take ownership of what I want my legacy to look like, the legacy of my family, the legacy of my passion for not-for-profit work, my passion for SickKids.”

Sometimes life events and budgetary constraints make it challenging to make an impact right away, even for a cause one believes in deeply. But leaving a gift in one’s will to an organization like SickKids Foundation can be one of the most rewarding—and long lasting—decisions in a person’s life.

Bouey knows firsthand how SickKids can transform the lives of children and their families and though it’s personal for her, she also takes a much wider view. Legacy giving to SickKids – gifts bequeathed in a will, through life insurance or other financial strategies – can have a long-lasting impact on generations of healthier children. As a global leader of research in child health, SickKids can ensure the impact is not just on individual lives, but on the lives of children around the world for generations to come.

The emotional challenges and paperwork of estate planning can make legacy giving seem daunting. But Bouey says the team at SickKids Foundation was able to walk her through the process, helping her understand the different financial strategies to create her legacy and providing her with appropriate wording for her will to make her wishes clear. Donors can designate a gift towards areas of patient care or research they’re passionate about, or have their gift go toward the highest priority needs of the Hospital.

Even though a legacy gift only takes effect after a donor has passed away, the relationship with SickKids starts once the donor makes contact with the Foundation. Bouey says that’s both rewarding and empowering. Through newsletters, patient stories and special events, legacy donors can feel a real connection to an institution that sees more than 150,000 patients each year, from all over Canada and around the world.

“They make you a part of this amazing community, not just of patients but of donors, people who want to have an impact on child’s health and children’s lives. Being educated in how your gift will make a change is truly inspiring,” she says. “If you believe in SickKids, leaving a legacy will ensure there will be a SickKids tomorrow.”

For further information about leaving a gift in your will to SickKids Foundation, please call 416-813-8271 or email