A wealthy couple who built their fortune as owners of a horse racing track in Hamilton, Ont. is pledging more than $100 million to support health research in their community – a massive donation that they hope will encourage others to do the same.

Charles and Margaret Juravinski, who have already donated millions to supporting healthcare initiatives, announced Wednesday that they are creating the multi-million dollar endowment, one of the largest legacy gifts ever given in Canada.

“We have learned that sharing our resources is in itself like a drug – one with a euphoric and healing effect. Simply put, nothing feels better than to help others feel better,” the couple said in a letter to the community. 

“It brings us great pleasure to think that when we are gone, our legacy to this community may be measured in the good health of those who come after us.”

The endowment will provide up to $5 million per year in perpetuity to the Juravinski Research Centre, which will support McMaster University, Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

The funds will support research across a range of fields, including mental health, lung and respiratory care, cancer, and diseases of aging. A committee of eight members will set goals and establish priorities for the money.

In their letter, the Juravinskis described growing up poor during the Depression and watching their parents struggle to make ends meet.

“We have never forgotten the humiliation and hardship our parents endured trying to raise their families, at times without any apparent resources at all. Their example motivated us to bear down and make sacrifices to become financially secure,” they wrote.

As adults, the couple would grow up to become millionaires. Charles Juravinski founded the Flamboro Downs, a horse racing track in Hamilton, in 1975. In 2002, he sold the racetrack for $72 million.

The couple said that managing the racetrack brought them “many rewards,” and they now want to share their fortune with the community they love.

“We knew that no matter one’s age or station in life, that everyone who lacks good health is equally vulnerable. There is no worry that compares to being sick or disabled and not knowing how things will turn out,” they wrote.

“We figured that if we could help relieve or even cancel some of that worry for the families of our community, that we would be pleased.”

Thomas Stewart, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System, described the $100-million gift as “transformational.”

“By enabling collaborative research into mental health care, lung and respiratory health, oncology, and diseases of aging, the Juravinskis’ gift will impact not only patients and families in Hamilton, but countless others around the world for generations to come,” Stewart said in a statement.

Rob MacIsaac, president and CEO of Hamilton Health Sciences, said the endowment will help elevate the health of generations of Canadians to come and address “some of the most important health issues of our time.”

The couple is well-known for their philanthropy. Their names are already attached to several organizations in Hamilton, including the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre at Hamilton Health Sciences and the Margaret & Charles Juravinski Education, Research & Development Centre at McMaster University.

The couple hopes that their gift starts a trend of sharing.

“We have one last wish: that others will share their own resources, whether great or modest, by creating their own legacy gifts. We want everyone to realize the true joy of sharing, as we have known,” they wrote.