Victoria nurse and volunteer builds a legacy for Island children

People choose causes that matter to them for many reasons, but the strongest come from deeply personal connections. For Beth McLean, a nurse and longtime volunteer, those connections turned into a lifetime of caring and a lasting legacy for the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island and local families.

Beth grew up in Greater Victoria and in the years after the Second World War, found her calling as a teen, working summers at the Queen Alexandra Solarium in Mill Bay. The Solarium had opened in 1927 to treat children from across B.C. and was a precursor to the Queen Alexandra Centre that later opened in Saanich and today’s Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island (CHFVI).

After starting in the Solarium’s laundry in 1946, the next summer took her into the kitchen, before a final turn as a nurse aide. Embarking on her nursing career, Beth trained at the Royal Jubilee Hospital and later certified in paediatrics. She returned to the Solarium as a nurse after graduation, moving to Gordon Head with the opening of the Queen Alexandra Centre in 1958.

A lifetime of compassion began at a young age. When Beth’s father left the family, her mother was forced to entrust Beth, her older brother and newborn sister to the care of an orphanage for a time – it was the only way to keep the siblings together and until she could find work and a place for the young family to live.

When Beth received her first doll, her future was solidified: “I wanted to look after her all the time and I always washed her, fixed her if she had a scratch, this kind of thing. I said, ‘I want to be a nurse and look after babies,’” she recalls. “I wanted that more than anything in the world.”

After 30 years in nursing, Beth embraced the opportunity to continue giving back as a volunteer, and to give financially to the causes that matter most to her.

“I loved nursing – loved it,” she says. However, “I thought, you know, maybe while I’m still healthy, maybe I should retire, and I can volunteer.”

Giving back

As Beth began volunteering in the 1980s with the then-newly launched Victoria Hospice, calls from the growing West Shore, where there were no beds for the terminally ill, led her to recruit 35 hospice volunteers for the area. For 20 years, training, care, a loan cupboard, and bereavement sessions followed.

Then Beth organized a West Shore breast examination clinic for seven years, and during the penny campaign for Jeneece Place, Beth and her husband, Gordon, saved every penny for the cause.

“Birthing and deathing have always been the most important things to me. I think that’s why I loved working with children and then with hospice. I just think it’s essential,” Beth says.

Today, Beth organizes a group that knits essentials for those in need here at home and around the world and continues to contribute to the invaluable work of CHFVI. In her estate planning, Beth has designated a legacy gift that will keep her work going for years to come.

As a teen aiming to pursue nursing, “I wanted a job desperately and the Solarium helped me out, they gave me work. So the Solarium was my lifesaver,” Beth says. “And it was children – my love, babies and children.”

And the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island remains forever grateful.

“We are so grateful for people like Beth,” says CHFVI CEO Veronica Carroll. “She’s carried a culture of compassion her whole life, and knowing her Solarium roots makes her legacy that much more special.”

Learn more about the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island at, where you can also donate today or plan to leave your own legacy for Island children.

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