Categorized | National News

Peter Nygard, A Man Who Believes in Giving Back

By P.J. Malone

Imagine going from riches to rags to riches? That has been the life experience of fashion mogul Peter Nygard, a man who is always focused on giving back in as many ways as he can—but most notably, to cancer awareness and research in the millions.

Various news websites and biographical descriptions reveal that Peter Nygard was a little boy when he, his sister Liisa, and parents Eli and Hilkka, lived in Finland under the threat of Stalin in Russia. They were considered wealthy in Finland but could not take their money out. Nevertheless, they left.

The family immigrated to Canada penniless and unable to speak English. As mentioned in a past article, their new home was a 10 feet by 8 feet converted coal shed with no running water or electricity. They had an old rusty stove that they used for cooking and as a source for heat in the winters that could get as cold as 40 degrees below zero. They had to use an outhouse, which was especially difficult to have to get to at such cold temperatures.

In a Deloraine Times & Star article about the Deloraine Park dedication in 2001, the reporter writes of Nygard being instrumental in making Nygard Park a reality in Nygard’s wish to give back to the people of Deloraine, who helped them after they emigrated. The reporter wrote:

“’The people of Deloraine were very kind,’ said Peter Nygård.  To make the new family feel welcome the church choir sang “Finlandia”.  Learning English was an important issue and Rev. Harvey taught him twice a week. He would hold up an object (hammer, egg, carrot) and have Peter repeat the word after him.

Nygård has fond memories of the food lessons. ‘When I said the word carrot correctly I could have the carrot.’ Despite hardships, the family was happy and with the help of neighbours learned to speak English.”

Nygard grew up poor, but by age 23 had invested everything he had saved along with a loan of $8,000 in a garment manufacturing business, as the story goes. It wasn’t long before he became its sole owner, turned the business around and created a standard of excellence and its label became the #1 recognized label in the Canadian marketplace. Today, Nygard is a global brand and a multi-billion-dollar dynasty with over 500 clothing stores around the world.

Peter Nygard is known for his commitment to giving back and has given to countless charities, organizations, and individuals throughout his life. However, there is one charity that is near and dear to his heart and is an ongoing commitment for him. He calls it his “corporate charity of choice”.

Hilkka Nygard, Peter Nygard’s mother is Nygard’s motivation as his lifelong personal hero and cancer survivor, though now deceased. Eradicating cancer is an important goal to him as demonstrated by his extremely generous giving to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Nygard can be seen holding checks of $550,000 and $70,000 one year at his fashion show, and $600,000 several years at his fashion shows. And these only represent some of his giving to this cancer foundation.

NYGARD for Life, which is his charitable platform encompasses a number of initiatives including NYGARD for Life fashion shows featuring cancer survivors, and an annual endowment to CancerCare. They sponsor a symphony orchestra to play for breast cancer patients while they receive treatment. Other initiatives include NYGÅRD International Molecular Biology Breast Cancer Research Unit and Breast Cancer Tumor Bank, and a Mobile Mammography Unit.

Nygard’s organization sponsors and participates in a number of other cancer awareness initiatives that raise money for cancer research like ‘Climb for The Cure’ where participants summitted Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which is the highest mountain in Africa; and like ‘Run for the Cure’ for which he had reached the milestone of having gave 1 million t-shirts by 2008.

This generous benefactor’s commitment to the CBCF and cancer research is clear. “We are Proud to say that NYGÅRD donates over $2-Million a year to this extremely important CAUSE,” as stated on Nygard’s corporate website.

Who does this? Who is this generous? Someone who knows what it’s like to have lived a rough life growing up, someone who knows that life is about making a difference in the lives of others, and someone who is of a generous heart and soul. That’s Peter Nygard!

Written by Jones Bahamas

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