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Lifelong supporters of arts and culture in Toronto

Bram and Bluma Appel

Throughout her life, Bluma Appel dazzled – and it was the city of Toronto and its people that benefited most from her passion, generosity and leadership. For almost 30 years, Bluma was a dynamic force in Toronto, doing all that could be done to help grassroots organizations take flight and to encourage activism, justice, and opportunities for all. Bluma was tireless in her support for a community ideal that saw arts, justice, compassion, accessibility and equal opportunity for everyone as the pillars of our – and any – great city.

Bluma and Bram Appel were instrumental in funding many of Toronto's arts programs and cultural centres, and in bringing awareness to various social and medical causes close to their hearts. Bram Appel, described as a person of great integrity and intellect, shared his wife's vision and passion for fixing things, people and the world during their marriage of 67 years.

Born in Montreal in 1920 to hard-working, immigrant parents, Bluma grew up the youngest of four children with a strong awareness of social responsibility and giving back. She began volunteering as a young child in Montreal and continued her charitable efforts throughout her career and lifelong work in Toronto.

Born in 1915, Bram Appel grew up on St. Urbain Street in Montreal. Never forgetting his humble beginnings, Bram was a successful business entrepreneur who eschewed the limelight. He was the quiet "unsung hero" to his wife's boundless and vigorous heart.

Bluma went on to lend her time and money to many Toronto cultural centres. In 1983, the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts named one of its theatres in her honour recognizing her support in helping renovate the theatre. She also made significant contributions to the various boards she served on: the Canadian Opera Company, the Canadian Stage Company, Opera Atelier and the Royal Ontario Museum.

Equally significant were the many social contributions Bluma made to causes she was passionate about. She was one of the first people to become involved in AIDS research and was instrumental in founding CANFAR, the Canadian Foundation for Aids Research. During the SARS epidemic in Toronto in 2003, she focused her attention on nurses and their vulnerability in caring for infectious patients, donating $350,000 to help the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing establish a Clinical Simulation Learning centre within the New Health Sciences Building at the University of Toronto's St. George Campus.

Significant gifts were also made to Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Mount Sinai Hospital, Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Conservatory of Music, McGill University's Faculty of Dentistry, Hincks-Dellcrest and the University Health Network. In addition, the Appels made less public donations to specific cancer researchers, hospitals and enrichment programs for disadvantaged children in Ontario.

The generous contributions of Bram and Bluma, both of whom died in 2007, remain vibrant. In 2009, a $3 million gift from the Bluma Appel Community Trust in support of the Toronto Public Library Foundation's re:vitalize – Toronto Reference Library Campaign enabled the creation of a new 16,800 net square event space, named The Bram & Bluma Appel Salon. An additional $1 million gift, announced in January 2013, has enabled the creation of the Bluma Lecture, a new world-class Lecture program at Toronto Public Library. This Lecture serves as a continued tribute to Bluma Appel, a lover of ideas, an activist, a social crusader for justice, who lived her life and expressed her core values through her philanthropy.

Throughout their lives, Bram and Bluma received many honours and awards.