Canadian REALTORS Care® Award 2020 recipient Ron Antalek of Maple Ridge, British Columbia admits he gets a little uncomfortable when asked about the $1 million donation he made to the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation (RMHF) in 2006. After all, he originally intended for it to remain anonymous.
“My natural instinct was to be anonymous,” shares Antalek . “And that was something I chose to do for a long time.”
In 2009, it was decided that a portion of Antalek ’s donation would be used to establish a new much-needed 20-bed psychiatric unit at Ridge Meadows Hospital. It was at this time that Antalek’s perspective shifted, thanks to RMHF staff and fellow board member Dr. Biju Mathew, who convinced him to not only make his donation public knowledge but also attach his well-known name to the unit, to help fight the unfair stigma around mental illness. (It bears remembering that this stigma was even more pervasive back in the early 2000s than it is today.)
“Mental illness continues to be misunderstood in our society and often does not attract the funding attention of donors,” explains Laura Butler, Executive Director of the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation. “Ron is to be commended not only for the size of his donation but also for his willingness to have the funding directed to mental health, an area of great need.”
Following the opening of the Antalek Family Psychiatry Unit, Antalek soon saw evidence of the value of his public stand in support of mental health.
“I’ve come to realize that people speaking up about things can inspire others,” shares Antalek. “That was the destiny of that donation. It inspired others to donate and has created a conversation within the community.”
In more recent years, Antalek has been closely involved in bringing further mental health resources to his community, this time in support of young people via a new Foundry-model youth wellness centre. Another portion of his transformational gift to RMHF—in conjunction with an innovative donation-matching fundraising challenge that Antalek spearheaded within his community—helped Foundry Ridge Meadows open its doors in January 2020. Within the first two weeks alone, more than 100 new young people visited the facilities.
“I think Ron has gone above and beyond to put a light and positivity around mental illness,” shares Vicki Kipps, Executive Director of Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Community Services. “He has really worked hard alongside lots of us in the social services sector to say that mental illness affects all of us.”
Antalek is an outstanding example of a REALTOR® making a difference in their community. To learn more about Antalek and other past recipients of CREA’s Canadian REALTORS Care® Award, please visit REALTORSCare.ca.