Doer family continues legacy of volunteerism

Many generous supporters have helped at Children’s Hospital Book Market throughout its 63-year history, and often generations in the same family have continued that support.

The Doer family – including former Premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, are one such family and have special connections to the sale.

Gwen Doer, a founding member and one of the original Book Marketeers, volunteered her time at Book Market between 1961 to 1970s. She spent hundreds of hours collecting and sorting books with her sons, Gary, David and James. Gwen later became the Book Market committee chair in 1968 and a Chown Guild member, one of the original five Guilds that supported fundraising for Children’s Hospital and now make up the Children’s Hospital Guild of Manitoba, in 1972 until her passing in 1975. Together, the Doer family packaged, priced, and sold thousands of books in years’ worth of volunteering and advocacy for the Children’s Hospital Book Market.

The Doer boys were initially volun-told by their mother to help at the yearly book donation drive. They took turns carrying heavy boxes of book donations to the former Annex building basement at the Children’s Hospital. Hauling boxes to this already cramped space wasn’t easy, but they grew to enjoy every moment spent volunteering.

“It was based on whoever was the oldest one and was still living at home that got the assignment,” says Gary. “We used to joke about it being forced but we loved every minute of it.”

Gary’s support of the Book Market continued into his adult life, including his tenure (1999 to 2009) as Premier – buying books and thanking the many volunteers that make the yearly sales a success. Years later Gary’s daughter, Kate, did a student work placement at Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, which included lending her talents and knowledge at the 2023 spring Book Market.

“Everybody has heard me say this many times over – that our ability to raise money is thanks to supporters like Gary Doer and his family,” says Carol Irving, Children’s Hospital Book Market organizer.

Carol says Book Market has accepted even more book donations in recent years, further expanding their grassroots volunteer efforts to include forklift operators and drivers. The fully volunteer-run book donation drive includes over 300 dedicated Book Marketeers – some volunteering their time on weekends and even over the holidays.

“There are some people who will come regularly – same time, same day, 52 weeks out of the year,” says Carol. “We’re very flexible and that’s the secret of our success.”

First established in 1961, the Children’s Hospital Book Market has raised millions for HSC Children’s Hospital’s Child Life program, providing the comfort many families with children in hospital need. Since their first sale, Book Market has increased their yearly donation total from $219,755 in 2000 to $357,000 in 2001 to $619,000 in 2017 – the largest donation yet.

“There was a time when we used to think that $150,000 was a lot of money to raise,” says Carol. “Now, we have been able to give thousands and thousands of more dollars to the Children’s Hospital Foundation to help the kids in hospital.”

Gary says the Children’s Hospital Book Market is a fun and simple way to help the community, connecting generations of families to this important cause. Contributing to Book Market comes in many forms including donating books, volunteering with Book Marketeers or buying books – some of the ways generations of Gary’s family continue to proudly support the donation book drive.

“Book Market is very near and dear to me,” says Gary. “My family have been connected to it for years, and I know we’ll be supporters for a long time.”

Visit St. Vital Centre this Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27 to shop for great books of all genres and support sick and injured kids in your community at the Children’s Hospital Book Market!

Children’s Hospital Spring Book Market hours:

Friday, April 26 | 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday, April 27 | 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Please note, this event is a sale only and no book donations can be accepted.

Thanks to the generosity of our community, all volunteer positions for this sale have been filled.

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