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Walk into the DeGasperis during lunch in the coming months, and you may see an unusual site – a yoga class. It's part of the Wellness Centre's yoga program for staff, which has recently expanded into this "room with a view." What's more, the class is led by an instructor with an unexpected connection to both TGH and the DeGasperis.
Her name is Amanda DeGasperis, and her grandfather was one of the three DeGasperis brothers for whom the space is named. The family donated $7 million to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in 2004, enabling the creation of three endowed chairs: Angelo & Lorenza DeGasperis Chair in Cardiovascular Surgery Research; Alfredo & Teresa DeGasperis Chair in the Surgical Management of Heart Failure; and Antonio & Helga DeGasperis Chair in Clinical Trials and Outcomes Research. In honour of the gift, the conservatory was named the DeGasperis Conservatory.
UHN staff have been enjoying classes in the DeGasperis since the fall, commenting that the open space is "more relaxing, and 'gave room to breathe.'"
We talked to Amanda to learn a little more about what it's like teaching in a place that has such a special connection to her family.
Can you explain your family connection to the DeGasperis? The DeGasperis Conservatory has a special place in my family's heart. My grandfather, Fred DeGasperis, and his brothers, Tony and Angelo, donated the space. All three have spent time at Toronto General, and believed that a comfortable area for patients, visitors and staff would enhance everyone's experience. It is truly a gift given with the intention of bringing joy to whoever uses it.
The piano in the Conservatory holds an especially sacred place in my heart. My grandmother, Theresa DeGasperis, donated it in recognition of the extraordinary care she received from Doctor Tirone David, head of Cardiovascular Surgery. He performed a successful quadruple heart by-pass, and she acknowledges that she would not be here today if it weren't for him. Being a musician herself, coupled with the memories of being a patient in the hospital, she knew exactly what the DeGasperis Conservatory needed: an instrument to allow the healing powers of music to be enjoyed by all.
How long have you been teaching yoga? And how did you end up teaching for the Wellness Centre? My yoga journey began three years ago, and I continue to learn from my wonderful teachers at Toronto's Downward Dog Yoga Centre. It was a pretty amazing coincidence when Downward Dog asked me if I was available to teach at TGH, not knowing that I had a connection to the DeGasperis Conservatory. However, it quickly became clear that this opportunity happened for a reason; I am so thankful to be able to practice with the staff each week.
Do you feel any connection to the space when you're teaching in there? I feel a beautiful connection when teaching in the space. When I walk into the room and see smiling patients, gazing out the window into the sunlight sharing smiles and laughter with others, my heart instantly warms. The intention of the DeGasperis Conservatory is to bring light and love to all who enter the space; and it is amazing to be a part of that each week.