Who We Are
Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care (PAC) and Emily’s House Hospice provide palliative, respite, practical, spiritual/social work and grief and bereavement care to children, adults, and families living with life-threatening illnesses in the comfort of their own home, and additional 24/7 nursing care in Toronto’s first home-like paediatric free-standing hospice. Our mission is to ensure children, youth and adults living with serious illness experience client / family centred comfort and care; caregivers and child siblings feel supported; and that families have opportunities to just be families and create legacies, as they make the most of the time they have together. Our multi-disciplinary, integrated approach to care, supports physical and mental well-being and quality of life, along the difficult trajectory of serious illness.
The Philip Aziz Centre and Emily’s House operate jointly with a unique “hybrid” hospice palliative care model – offering the best of both a community hospice in-home visiting program; as well as 24/7 clinical and psycho-social paediatric care in our home-like, child-friendly facility. The advantages to our clients of this hybrid model include:
Smooth pathways to seamless care and continuity of care, particularly as paediatric clients transition between home, hospital and Emily’s House
Accelerated access to multi-disciplinary team and agency referral partners
Timely communication and accurate information on availability of programs, services and support options
For more about Emily’s House and PAC, visit the What We Do section of our website: What We Do Emily’s House; or What We Do PAC.
History / Timeline: The Philip Aziz Centre (PAC) and Emily’s House (EH)
- 1991: Toronto artist Philip Aziz dies and bequeaths his estate to “Church in the City.” This generous legacy gift becomes start-up funding for PAC.
- 1992: Founding board constituted for PAC.
- Summer 1993: PAC officially registered as a Canadian Charity.
- June 1994: PAC officially opens, with offices and training space at Berkeley Castle on the Esplanade. (See full story below).
- Fall 1994: PAC founding staff embark on developing a community visiting hospice program for persons living with HIV/AIDS, as per Philip Aziz’s bequest request. This included research and environmental scans of needs, gaps and services for people with HIV/AIDS and building collaborative relationships with community AIDS service organizations and the Ministry of Health.
- February 1995: First volunteer training. (12 volunteers).
- March 1995: First client with HIV receives volunteer and spiritual care support. Later, PAC became known and trusted for its provision of spiritual care for many who felt disconnected from their faith communities or afraid to disclose their HIV status due to stigma.
- Summer 1995: First funeral conducted by PAC spiritual care provider, with countless to follow who died of AIDS. Collaborative partnership with Casey House established.
- Fall 1995: While continuing to serve all persons in the community living with HIV/ AIDS, PAC responds particularly to service gaps in the provision of care for immigrant women and children living with HIV/AIDS. Initiates a collaborative relationship with SickKids Hospital.
- Summer 1995: PAC helped develop a hospice in Manilla Philippines, in partnership with a newly formed family charity named in honor of Rodel Naval (a client who received spiritual and practical care from PAC).
- 1996: Launch of spiritual care groups for men and women living with HIV/AIDS.
- 1997: PAC facilitates first weekend retreat away for men and women living with HIV/AIDS.
- Spring 1997: In its report to the Ontario Ministry of Health, The Toronto District Health Council highlights and commends PAC, as a new community support service, for providing “innovative solutions to unmet consumer needs.”
- Spring 1997: After a thorough review, PAC receives initial, permanent base funding from the Ministry of Health.
- Fall 1997: At a time when antiretrovirals are proving effective at reducing deaths from AIDS, PAC adjusts its Letters Patent and Mission to serve anyone in the community facing a life-limiting illness from any disease, not just HIV. PAC expands community hospice supports to adults and children living with any life-limiting illness.
- 1998: PAC applies and receives three years of funding from the Elton John AIDS Foundation. (Only three other organizations in Canada receive this).
- Over time, it becomes apparent that children have unique and special palliative care needs, often living longer than an adult with a life-limiting illness; and with a trajectory that was not a predictable, degenerative progression toward death but followed waves of medical complexity and fragility.
- 2004: Board approves Executive Director’s proposal for expansion to build children’s hospice
- Spring 2004: Dr. Susan King Tribute/retirement dinner (pediatrician and HIV researcher at SickKids Hospital – all proceeds designated to seed the beginnings of children’s hospice ($100,000).
- Spring 2006: Emily Yeskoo becomes a client of PAC.
- 2010: Ministry of Health provides 2 million capital to build Emily’s House.
- Major donor family grants 2 million to capital, 1 million operating
- July 2013: Emily’s House opens its doors to provide palliative and medical respite care for children in a home-like environment, while supporting their families. Initially, Emily’s House operates at a six-bed model, and a few years later expands to ten beds, with secured operating funding for clinical costs. With thanks to an effective Capital Campaign, the organization was debt-free when welcoming the first family.
- 2017/2018: The Emily’s House/PAC volunteer roster increases to over 300 compassionate care providers.
- 2018: Paediatric palliative supports expanded to include perinatal care. Perinatal hospice is an innovative and compassionate model of palliative care that supports parents following a baby’s prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition expected to result in death prior to, or shortly following, birth. The 2018 pilot partnership between Emily’s House, Sick Kids Hospital, and Mount Sinai Hospital has since advanced to become a permanent program named IMPACT.
- 2019: In a landmark year of hospice programming, Emily’s House offers a memorable “away camp” long weekend experience for bereaved families, and a second overnight, “away camp” experience for families of medically-fragile children – including canoe rides in northern Ontario!
- September 24, 2019: After a remarkable, influential life, our beloved Emily Yeskoo died when 26 years old. Emily’s zest for life, courage and faith inspired the naming of our hospice.
- 2020: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily’s House “steps up” by committing to temporarily provide in-hospice care for adults who are palliative. The team frees up eight hospital beds at Michael Garron Hospital for COVID-19 patients, while still reserving two beds at our hospice for children from Sick Kids Hospital for end-of-life care. At the same time, our Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care continues to safely provide modified, virtual, and limited, in-person hospice supports for children and adults.
- 2021: Hospice Palliative Care Ontario (HPCO) awards three hospice sector awards to Emily’s House/PAC: the Dorothy Ley Award of Excellence in Hospice Palliative Care to Rauni Salminen our CEO; the Frances Montgomery Award for Outstanding Personal Support Worker to Elizabeth Kagbe, our PSW; and, the Mount Pleasant Group Hospice Innovation Award for our pivotal response to COVID.
Philip Aziz Centre Visiting Hospice:
Our story began with one act of kindness, expressed through a small community church in Toronto towards a man named Philip Aziz, who was dying of an AIDS-related illness. The compassion, love, practical and spiritual support he received amidst this caring community led him to bequeath his estate to them. Philip requested his gift be used to establish an organization that would help others in our city struggling beneath the burden of illnesses, discrimination, isolation, fear and stigma related to living with HIV/AIDS.
Since opening its doors in 1995, Philip Aziz Centre (PAC) has continued this legacy of practical expressions of love, through a small professional staff team and hundreds of trained volunteers, whose commitment to delivering compassionate hospice care has helped to make a difficult life journey more meaningful and manageable for hundreds of clients and their loved ones. Within several years of operations, PAC’s reputation for excellence in the delivery of care for persons living with HIV/AIDS, opened the door to supporting people living with any life-threatening illness, with a focus on children.
Soon, PAC expanded again to respond to the diverse needs of the children with complex conditions and their families that had been supported through our community visiting hospice programs but whose needs far exceeded what our in home volunteer visiting could offer. This need for greater supports led us to expanding our services by building a children’s hospice – Emily’s House. This 10-bed hospice, named in honor of one our courageous young clients, is designed to offer integrated medical respite and paediatric palliative care in a home-like environment with 24/7 nursing care, and therapeutic programs to optimize quality of life.
In March 2021, Philip Aziz’s sister, Jean Munro, died leaving a donation in her Will to help continue the good work of hospice care, in honour of her brother’s legacy.
- Founder of PAC: Reverend Bill Mugford
- Founding PAC Staff: Dan Dempster, Rev. Rauni Salminen
- Founding PAC Board Members: Gretchen Van Riesen, Sam Henein, Israel Shopsowitz, Dan Dempster, Peter Walker
- Alumni Board Members PAC and EH: Norm Allen, Conrad Beyleveldt, Rev. Paul Burke, Darren Gingras, Dr. Donna Henrikson, Peter Herouix, Vida Markic, Dr. James Orbinski, Bishop Taylor Price, Lee Primeau, Willi Shillinglaw, Barrie Sprawson, Barbara Walkden, Dr. Bill Watson
- Founder of Emily’s House: Rauni Salminen
- Founding member of Rodel Naval AIDS Care Outreach in Manila: Rauni Salminen
- EH Capital Campaign Lead: Don Pangman
- EH Building Committee: Charles Rosenberg, Dave Ashfield, David Bronskill, Carm Caruso, Sam Costa, Gretchen VanRiesen
“Whether a life is measured in days, weeks, months or even years, children living with a life limiting illness deserve the opportunity to learn, play, develop and grow …to just be kids. Thank you for believing with us, that when there is no cure, there is still support, compassion and care…there is hospice.”
–Rauni Salminen, CEO, Philip Aziz Centre and Emily’s House
Photo: Rauni Salminen, CEO, Philip Aziz Centre and Emily’s House, and Rick Firth, CEO and President, Hospice Palliative Care Ontario (HPCO).
Emily’s House Children’s Hospice: Origin Story
Emily’s House opened its doors in July 2013. It began as a vision birthed out of our community-based visiting hospice, Philip Aziz Centre which had its start in the 1980’s when HIV/AIDS was at a pandemic peak in Toronto.
Philip Aziz Centre is the charitable organization that trains and equips hundreds of volunteers who comfort and support persons living with life-limiting illness and their families in their own homes. It also serves as the fundraising and charitable status entity for both operating divisions. Over the years of working in the community, it became increasingly clear that families and children had diverse and complicated needs that required more than the volunteer support we offered at the time through our programs.
This gap in community services, along with the voices of many parents became the impetus for building a child-centric hospice facility. A place like Emily’s House now offers children and youth with complex, serious conditions an opportunity to be cared for away from home for periods of time, offering parents a rest from 24/7 care giving, as well as an alternative care setting to hospital for end-of-life care.
Emily’s House is named in honour of one of our young clients who we supported through our community visiting hospice programs for many years. She battled a rare terminal neuro-degenerative disease. Her courage, faith, compassion, gentleness, and laughter are the qualities we strive to reflect at Emily’s House. Emily Yeskoo and her family represent hundreds of others who face the daily challenges of living with life-limiting illnesses and who will now have access to increased care and support.
From a welcome plaque at Emily’s House:
Emily’s House was established by the Philip Aziz Centre, our in-home visiting hospice, in 2013. This accessible, child-friendly, paediatric hospice home was the vision of our founding CEO, inspired by the many children and families supported over the previous years.
We welcome you to our compassionate and diverse community of professionals and volunteers dedicated to excellence in the provision of medical and psycho-social care for children and youth living with complex, life-limiting, illnesses, and their families. We believe all children, regardless of their abilities, have the right to play, grow, and learn — to live their lives to the fullest — and just be kids.
Emily’s House is built on a foundation of love: a love that summons us to honour diversity, respect individuality, and ensure a safe space where everyone knows they are valued and feel they belong.
Emily’s House is named in honour of a young woman who was supported through our visiting hospice programs, and whose faith, courage, compassion, and zest for life inspired the naming of our hospice and kept us encouraged and determined to complete the building of this special place.
Rauni Salminen (CEO)
Testimonial – from Emily’s House parents:
“Dear Emily’s House team. Thank you so much for your caring, compassion, and support. We felt so loved. You all helped us have the strength to make it through. We know we wouldn’t have been able to go through everything without you. Whether it was a sympathetic ear when I was crying, laughing with us at our silliness, or reaffirming us that our child was the cutest in the world, you gave us everything we needed during the most difficult time of our lives … and for that we are eternally thankful.”
Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Statement
Emily’s House and the Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care is an equal opportunity employer, committed to supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity.