You probably never heard of Sandra McGuire, but if you have been to St. Michael’s Hospital within the last twenty years or so, chances are she has given you or someone you know information on how best to navigate our corridors. Maybe she’s made the time you spent here a little sweeter or perhaps a little more comfortable. Regardless, we think she’s definitely somebody worth knowing and we are delighted to tell you her story.
Sandra was born and treated for tuberculosis at the historic Weston Sanatorium in Toronto when she was a child. She grew up poor and was touched by tragedy early in life. She was in her early teens when her mother got sick, then her brother, and they passed away within just a few years of each other. These were tragic events to be sure but this is not the story. This is a tiny glimpse into the life of a resilient, charitable person who has been an inspiration to those who know her.
Sandra’s impressive work history began when she was just 13 years old. She recalls working a number of odd jobs including her first “real job” as secretary at the historic Toronto General Burying Grounds before finding her niche. While she enjoyed many aspects of the job she knew she had more to offer and more that she wanted to accomplish so she saved up what little money she earned and set about putting herself through night school. She landed a position in the Federal Government, got promoted through several departments and eventually retired as a Chief of Finance. Sandra had decided that when she retired, she would volunteer at St. Michael’s because they had taken care of her over the years and she wanted to pay back the care she received and is still receiving.
Sandra started volunteering at St. Michael’s Hospital in 1996. Back then she worked at our Information Desk located in the Bond Wing. It was around this time when she received treatment for a serious injury sustained while riding her bike. While recovering, she took it upon herself to create a comprehensive information guide titled “Where Is?” This guide was complete with answers to commonly asked questions and featured a detailed map that proved to be an effective tool leveraged by fellow information stewards to respond to queries. When not improving efficiency, she gave tours to visitors and staff, was on the volunteer association and editor of the St. Mike’s Volunteer Cookbook, helped to raise funds for hospital equipment through the sale of lottery tickets and selling 56 varieties of her famous homemade jams. She was known as the “jam lady,” so it was fitting that she head up our annual bake sale too!
Her adventurous spirit sometimes came at a price and landed her in hospital not as a volunteer, but as a patient including the time she was treated for a broken thumb while enjoying her passion for skiing. She actually credits St. Michael’s with having saved her life after sustaining a broken femur while engaging in the seemingly innocuous activity of shoveling snow off her driveway. Our Dr. James Waddell recently replaced her left knee while Dr. Paul Dorian has been keeping her out of our emergency department through the effective management of her atrial fibrillation heart condition.
Her fellow ski club friends lovingly call her Sergeant Sandra, a nickname given in recognition of her leadership. They will tell you that while everyone’s deciding what to do and offering all kinds of reasons why not to do it, she’s already convinced you it’s a good idea and before you know it – you’re both speeding down the side of a mountain. When you meet Sandra, you are immediately struck by her positivity and charm and it quickly becomes clear why people follow her.
When asked what drives her to volunteer for the last 20 plus years, she exemplified what it means to be a charitable person and said “at the risk of sounding cliché, I just want to pay it forward. This hospital has been so good to me – especially the orthopedic team. I am not what you might call a deeply religious person, I just try to live by the Golden Rule which is do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
As if Sandra’s volunteer services weren’t enough, she also has a long history of giving and has made a legacy gift to St. Michael’s in her will. When thanked for all she’s done for this hospital over the years she just smiled and said it was her pleasure.
I just want to pay it forward. This hospital has been so good to me – especially the orthopedic team. I am not what you might call a deeply religious person, I just try to live by the Golden Rule which is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. — Sandra McGuire
These days you can find her volunteering in our Patient Library. Over the last five years she has been processing the sometimes overwhelming number of books and other media donations we receive – a far cry from her days in high finance. Sandra says if you ever find yourself in the Patient Care Library on the 5th floor of the Bond Wing, stop by and say hello. And if you’re not up to reading, she says she would be glad to help you pass the time with a friendly chat. She no longer rides her bike or skis but that’s okay by her. She’s just happy sitting on the front porch with her husband Leo and watching the world go by.
If you’re a fan of knitted goods like baby clothes, blankets and Santa sweaters, you are in luck. It turns out Sandra is quite a talented knitter. Her creations are on display in our gift shop and I am told that 95% of all baby sweaters sold are made by her and that they are highly coveted among our proud new parents, as well as staff.
On behalf of everyone here at St. Michael’s Hospital, thank you, Sandra – for everything you do.
If you'd like to learn more about becoming a hospital volunteer, visit the hospital website. Or to become a donor and "pay it forward" like Sandra does, you can make a gift to support the hospital on our donation page or call the Foundation office at 416.864.5000.