The online event featured shout-outs from local superstars Michael Bublé and Michael J. Fox.


Cornelia Naylor, (BURNABY NOW) — Burnaby’s two favourite Michaels made cameos in a virtual gala Friday that raised more than $400,000 towards the redevelopment of Burnaby Hospital.

The online “A Gala Reimagined” event, put on by the Burnaby Hospital Foundation, featured short video clips of internationally renowned crooner Michael Bublé, a Burnaby resident, and award-winning actor, comedian, author and activist Michael J. Fox, who grew up in the city.

In Fox’s clip (which featured at least one Emmy on a shelf in the background), he reminisced about hockey injuries that he’d had stitched up at the hospital. Bublé noted he’d been born there.

“We’ve never had the Michaels,” said an excited Burnaby Hospital Foundation CEO Kristy James – a self-proclaimed “fangirl” of Fox’s 1980s breakout sitcom Family Ties.

James said the shout-outs from the city’s biggest superstars were “a thrill,” but she admits her expectations of her foundation’s marquee fundraising event this year, which had to be moved online because of COVID-19, hadn’t been high.

“I’ve watched several other charities do these galas virtually, and it’s a hard go,” she told the NOW. “To be very honest, I was hoping it would raise awareness, and I was hoping we’d get maybe $200,000.”

The event raised double that thanks in large part to a $250,000 gift from the Bruno family of Burnaby, according to James.

About 300 people logged on to watch the gala Friday night, she said, and one big advantage to the virtual format was that all of Burnaby could take part.

Since the event was recorded, people can still watch it by visiting the foundation’s website at

The Burnaby Firefighters Charitable Foundation made a 10-year, $250,000 commitment in 2018 to be the annual gala’s presenting sponsor.

This year, the firefighters also kicked in an extra $50,000 donation to the fundraiser.

The money raised through the gala is going towards the foundation’s Proud History, Bright Future campaign, an ambitious project to raise $30 million in the next four years toward the redevelopment of Burnaby Hospital.

With a $1.3-billion commitment from the provincial government, a two-phase redevelopment will significantly expand the services available at the hospital and boost the number of beds from 265 to 397.

When the redevelopment is complete, the hospital will also have two new patient care towers and a cancer treatment centre.

During the virtual gala, emergency room physician Dr. Neil Long said his dream was for the hospital to become a centre of excellence.

“While this might seem fanciful, I ask you this: Why not? Why not Burnaby?” he said. “These changes will turn our little community hospital into a world-class, state-of-the-art facility. We can make a difference. What you do tonight will make a difference.”

Other special appearances throughout the evening included two-time World Champion of Magic Shawn Farquhar; Mayor Mike Hurley; campaign fundraising chair and supporter William McCarthy; and Ryan Beedie, whose mother Betty and family donated $8 million to the project last February.

The gala also recognized the hospital foundation’s 2020 Philanthropy Award recipients.

2020 Philanthropy Awards
  • Keith and Betty Beedie Leadership in Philanthropy Award – Peter and Shelley O’Sullivan)
  • Burnaby Hospital Foundation Corporate Citizenship Award – Alexander College
  • Burnaby Hospital Foundation Dr. Kenneth Hill Spirit of Philanthropy Award – TB Vets Charitable Society
  • Burnaby Hospital Foundation Physician of the Year Award – Dr. Nirmal Kang