Local philanthropist hands over two $500,000 cheques in one week

Local philanthropist hands over two $500,000 cheques in one week

Written by: Trevor Wilhelm

February 5, 2018

He’ll give away $1 million without hesitation, but don’t expect him to wax poetic about the reasons for his kindness.

Philanthropist Al Quesnel stunned the thankful organizers of two charities within a week of each other by showing up at each of their fundraising galas with a $500,000 cheque in hand. First it was Transition to Betterness on Jan. 27, then In Honour of the Ones We Love on Saturday.

“It is what it is,” Quesnel Monday. “Life’s short and if you can help people that need it, then you help them. If not, then you just keep it in your bank account and give it to your kids when you die.”

Quesnel went into giving mode several years ago after building a fitness empire that had its humble beginnings with a part-time job at Powerhouse Fitness on Walker Road when he was 18. He ended up owning the gym, renamed Total Fitness before he took over, and opened more locations.  Quesnel sold Total Fitness in 2001 for $2.5 million.

He also joined forces with another former partner to open The Athletic Club in London. That quickly grew into a chain boasting 11 locations with more than 60,000 members in London, Kitchener, Guelph, Brantford, Amherstburg, Kingsville, Thunder Bay and Ottawa.

He sold his stake in that company in 2014 and put $20 million — which Quesnel has said was about half the proceeds of the sale — into his charitable foundation.

Now he spreads the wealth wherever he sees the need. He has donated about $4 million to projects in Haiti.

I’ve been involved in Africa and Haiti and different places,” Quesnel said. “But I kind of shifted gears, so to speak, to try and do some more local support.”

Over the last couple years, Quesnel said he has donated about $6 million to various other causes. That includes $2.5 million to help restore the historic St. Anne’s church in Tecumseh, $1 million to the Downtown Mission, and $200,000 to Harmony in Action, which provides programs for adults with physical and intellectual challenges.

He also gave $100,000 to repair a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) cancer scanner and $100,000 to the Windsor Residence for Young Men. That was the third $100,000 cheque Quesnel gave to the Windsor Residence for Young Men.

On Jan. 27, he showed up at the Transition to Betterness annual gala with a $500,000 cheque. Quesnel’s donation helped the charity raise a record-setting $1 million for programs to comfort patients and families affected by life-altering illnesses.

A week later on Saturday, he appeared at the In Honour of the Ones We Love gala with another $500,000 cheque. The donation also helped that charity, which raises money for cancer patient care, more than double its normal take.

Anita Imperioli, president and founder of In Honour of the Ones We Love, said their annual gala usually raises around $325,000. They took in about $350,000 on Saturday. Then Quesnel showed up.

“This year we did extremely well with Al’s donation,” said Imperioli. “It’s going to help us advance our programs, our community. It’s just unbelievable. This is tremendously huge. The impact it will make for In Honour of the Ones We Love and our families is just unbelievable.”

She pointed out that wasn’t Quesnel’s first donation to In Honour of the Ones We Love. He previously gave the charity $100,000.

 “He’s an amazing gentleman, he really is, to give back the way he does in this community and what he does for the organizations,” said Imperioli. “I know how hard I work to raise a dollar. It’s so greatly appreciated because I know it’s going to make things easier for my program, especially my Kids Beating Cancer programs, and all the other programs that we run for families and children. We’re so fortunate to have the Al Quesnels in our lives.”

Quesnel said both of the $500,000 donations were last minute decisions.

“Why? Because I have it,” he said.  “I just know they’re two reputable local organizations that help those who need help.”

Courtesy of: The Windsor Star

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