For the past 15 years, Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott has been going to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto to put on a Christmas show for veterans living there.

But this year, he’s bringing a much bigger gift he hopes will mean a whole lot more.

His foundation, McDermott House Canada, is to launch its first Canadian project today — the renovation and expansion of the hospital’s palliative care wing.

The issue is dear to his heart. His sister Alice was in palliative care in 2000 before she died of cancer. This year, the mother of a close friend was in palliative care before she passed away.

Over the years, the former member of the Irish Tenors has visited several people whose family members spent their final days in palliative care. He asked them what would have made a difference in the time they spent with their loved one.

“A lot of stuff came back. Simple things you wouldn’t think of, like privacy,” said McDermott.
“Usually the rooms are two people or four people in a room separated by curtains or dividers and there’s little privacy.”

The renovations the foundation is funding will add eight rooms, so the unit, which serves military vets, first responders and the community, will expand to 32 rooms, he said.

McDermott’s longtime friend, alpine skier turned television commentator Brian Stemmle, would have preferred privacy for his family during his mother’s final days. It was difficult because there was another woman in the room, he said.

“You want to be quiet but you want to say the things you needed to say to my mother, the last things you’d like to say,” said Stemmle.