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Patron Spotlight

Impact Beyond Measure: The Legacy of an Arts Advocate & Adoption Crusader

A Profile of Late TSO Donor Helen Allen Stacey
February 13, 2023

Journalist. Social worker. Philanthropist. Officer of the Order of Canada. Each of these honorifics indicates a nobility of purpose and a commitment to the betterment of humanity—and they’ve all been used to characterize the late Helen Allen Stacey, a longtime TSO supporter.  

Helen Kathleen Allen was born in Dundurn, Saskatchewan, in 1907. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929 from the University of Toronto, where she also met Charles P. Stacey, whom she would marry more than 50 years later after reconnecting with him at a U of T reunion. Helen became a reporter for the Toronto Telegram and, in 1964, she started a column called “Today’s Child”, which profiled children in need of adoption. By 1971, the Toronto Star had picked it up and Children’s Aid Societies in Hamilton, Kenora, and Toronto were partners in the cause. The column became so successful that it was syndicated to newspapers across Ontario and enabled Helen to launch a television series on Toronto’s CFTO-TV called Family Finder

Helen’s tireless advocacy work resulted in the domestic adoption of more than 11,000 children.

Once fittingly referred to as the “fairy godmother of adoption,” Helen received many honours for her service to the community, including the Order of Canada, an honorary doctorate from York University, an Award of Merit from the City of Toronto, and a Special Achievement Award from the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Outside her work, Helen held a deep appreciation for the arts, and she supported the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as a subscriber and donor from the mid-1980s. She made annual gifts through the Friends and Maestro’s Club giving programs right up to her 98th year, and, after Helen passed in 2006 at age 99, the TSO learned that she had also left a significant gift in her will to support the Orchestra. The final disbursement was received last year. In honour of Helen’s generosity, a performance of the TSO’s Saraste + Sibelius program was dedicated to her memory on March 24, 2022. 

The TSO is exceedingly grateful to Helen for her support during her lifetime and beyond. Her kindness and generosity inspire our musicians and keeps the music playing.

  • If you have already included a gift in your will in support of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra or you have questions about legacy giving, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Emelita Ervin, Senior Development Officer, Legacy Giving, at eervin@TSO.CA or 416.595.4259, to discuss membership of our TSO Legacy Circle.