Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, formerly the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children, traces its roots back to the early 1920s. The Foundation has endured changes of location, expansion, and organizational restructuring, but through it all has remained true to its original mission: to improve the lives of children with disabilities and health challenges on Vancouver Island.
1920s & 1930s
In 1922, a desperate mother, whose daughter Polly was suffering from tubercular disease of the spine, appealed to the Women's Institutes of British Columbia for help getting her child treatment. Inspired to help, the members of the Women's Institutes began raising funds to build a children's hospital in Vancouver.
In 1925, a proposal was brought forward that a facility for the prolonged treatment of "delicate and crippled children" be built on Vancouver Island instead, and an oceanfront site was selected in Mill Bay. After the Women’s Institutes received a contribution from the Royal Family, they named the facility after Queen Alexandra, a monarch known for her compassion and devotion to charitable causes. The Queen Alexandra Solarium for Crippled Children welcomed its first patient on March 1, 1927.
In the early years, the Solarium focused on treating diseases such as polio and tuberculosis using innovative, contemporary methods which combined use of the sun's ultra violet rays with open air and sun bathing. The oceanfront location offered an alternative therapy for the children, who enjoyed playing on the beach and letting the west coast landscape ignite their imaginations and heal their bodies.
1940s, 1950s, 1960s
During this time, a new splint and brace shop was opened on the Solarium grounds, which allowed professionals to make braces for children on site. As this service expanded to meet the needs of more patients, a new building was required. In 1958, the Solarium relocated to its current location in Victoria, overlooking beautiful Finnerty Cove on Arbutus Road.
An expansion of services accompanied the move, and in 1968, the Cerebral Palsy Clinic moved onto the grounds, becoming the G.R. Pearkes Centre for Children.
Only one of the Solarium’s original buildings, a nurses’ residence, remains on the Mill Bay site; it is now a girls’ dormitory at Brentwood College. In honour of the building’s origins, Brentwood College named the building Alexandra House.
1970s, 1980s, 1990s
In 1973, the Solarium was renamed the Queen Alexandra Hospital for Children.
In 1982, Anscomb House was opened for patients with muscular dystrophy.
In 1984, the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children was established.
The year 1986 brought an official organizational amalgamation of the G.R. Pearkes Centre and the Queen Alexandra Hospital, and led to the establishment of the Arbutus Society for Children. At the same time, the George R. Pearkes Foundation for Children and the Queen Alexandra Solarium for Crippled Children Foundation amalgamated into the Queen Alexandra Foundation (QAF) for Children.
Also in 1986, a Rehabilitation Engineering Centre, later renamed the Fisher Building, opened on the QA site. This facility still houses wheelchair seating, orthotics, and prosthetics services, as well as a biomedical research component.
Ledger House, Vancouver Island’s only child and adolescent mental health facility, opened on the QA grounds in 1987.
In 1993, the Arbutus Society for Children wanted to invoke the history of the original Solarium and was renamed the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health (QACCH), operated separately from the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children, the fundraising organization. The Foundation owns the land at 2400 Arbutus Road and leases it to the QACCH, operated by the Vancouver Island Health Authority (Island Health), for $1 per year, so that VIHA can provide critical services to children and youth.
2000 – present
In 2000, QAF funded the renovation of the QACCH clinic area. This renovated space is the home of the following clinics: swallowing disorders, neuromuscular, pediatric amputee, cleft lip/palate, visually impaired, neuropsychology, and pediatric orthopedics.
In 2004 and 2005, QAF partnered with child and youth agencies to develop two new Child, Youth and Family Centres in Sooke and the West Shore (Colwood) to meet the needs of the growing populations in these areas. These facilities provide a convenient space in which services for children and youth are brought together under one roof, allowing agencies to share resources, avoid duplication, and enhance co-operation in order to better serve children and youth.
In January 2012, QAF opened Jeneece Place, a home away from home for families travelling to Victoria for their child’s medical care. Located on the grounds of the Victoria General Hospital, the 10,500 square foot house features 10 bedrooms, games and media rooms, and an outdoor play area. Jeneece Place was the dream of Jeneece Edroff, O.B.C., and was built entirely thanks to generous donations from the community.
In October 2012, the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children changed its name to Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island. The new name better reflects the scope of the Foundation’s work, which is to provide support for children and youth across Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, not only at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health (which the Foundation continues to support), but at a multitude of other organizations and agencies.
Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island embraces its history through its mission to support programs, services, and equipment that support children with health challenges and disabilities. By funding programs, services and equipment at the QACCH and in various community agencies, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island plays a leading role in improving the health of young people on the Islands.