Twenty-five years ago, on March 1, 1988, the doors of Casey House were opened thanks to the pioneering compassion and courage of many volunteers.
When you dream, do not be realistic and fit your dream to what exists and is possible. Fit your dream to what should exist, and should be possible.
Casey House Founding Volunteer June Callwood
As the first freestanding HIV/AIDS facility in Canada, Casey House helped to define compassionate treatment for this emerging and terrifying disease, in a time of terrible stigma and fear.
Then primarily a disease of gay men, AIDS was ravaging Toronto’s gay community, with young men often dying alone without the support of family and friends. Something had to be done, and so the Casey House founders set to work with immense urgency. They raised funds with the help of hundreds of volunteers, including the organizers of the lavish community-based “DQ” drag events that generated the first big cheque that allowed Casey House to open our doors. Toronto’s interior design community also rallied in support, calling on the kindness of suppliers in order to make the newly-purchased house at 9 Huntley Street beautiful and home-like.
There were no effective treatments in those days, and so a diagnosis of AIDS too frequently led to imminent death. With so many people dying, Casey House led the way as the first stand-alone hospice in Ontario, pioneering new approaches to ease pain and suffering in the final weeks and days of life. Casey House played a leading role in shaping compassionate palliative care in Canada and around the world.
In the 25 years since we opened, Casey House has been lovingly maintained as a warm and welcoming environment for people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as their families and friends. For a quarter century, Casey House has provided people in the final stages of the disease with a place to die with dignity, in a home-like environment and cared for with compassion and skill.
Thankfully, since the introduction of anti-retroviral medications in the mid-1990′s, most of the people cared for at Casey House today are able to regain their strength and return home. Many continue to receive regular care in the comfort of their own homes, often for many years. Casey House continues to be a beacon of support and compassion for our clients and their loved ones as they struggle with the advanced stage of AIDS.
There continues to be no place like Casey House anywhere in Ontario. Far more than bricks and mortar, Casey House is built from our community’s wisdom and compassion, out of our shared love and enduring respect for the dignity and worth of every human being.
Twenty five years ago, our founders lit a beacon of compassion and hope in a time of darkness and fear. All of us at Casey House are deeply grateful to our community for helping us to keep that beacon lit, now and into the future, until the day comes when HIV/AIDS is only a memory.