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Li steps up for hospital fundraisers

By Don Fennell

Published 12:20 PST, Wed January 22, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

Thankful for the life he’s been afforded, Willie Li believes it’s important to pay it forward.

“Giving back is a basic thing,” he says. “When you get something, you need to give back to society and to your community.”

Through his company Lion Way Properties, the Richmond man is stepping up to support local health care.

Having given in the past to the Richmond Hospital Foundation, Li is now stepping up for the Vancouver General and UBC Hospital Foundation as title sponsor of the 6th annual Time to Shine Gala.

Scheduled for Feb. 1 at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, the event promises to be an exceptional opportunity for philanthropists to help transform the future of surgical care in BC. As provincial surgical referral centres, the two hospitals are the cornerstones of surgical excellence in the province and provide the highest calibre complex surgical care in BC. However, the operating rooms at VGH were built more than 30 years ago in 1985 and can no longer meet the demands placed on them.

Considered the most prestigious fundraising gala in BC’s Chinese-Canadian community, the Lion Way Properties Time to Shine Gala will help VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation close its $60 million fundraising campaign as part of a $145 million transformation of the surgical facilities at both hospitals.

“It’s emotional to me,” says Li, who immigrated to Canada 11 years ago and launched his business in Richmond in 2010. 

“Several times I’ve gone to hospital with friends and seen the very good and professional service they’ve received,” he explains. “I want to see the donations for 16 new operating rooms that will improve the quality of medical treatment for everybody.”

Li will also be participating in, and supporting, the For Children We Care gala to be hosted by the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation on March 7.

The 25th anniversary of the annual fundraiser, the event supports the only hospital in the province devoted exclusively to the care of children—which one million kids in BC and the Yukon count on for specialized care. BC Children’s Hospital also serves as one of the largest geographical regions of any children’s hospital in North America—almost a million square miles.

As a little boy growing up in China, Li dreamed of becoming a teacher.

“I liked philosophy and reading,” he explains.

But after graduating from university with a major in management, he pursued a career in business instead.

When he’s not busy overseeing his real estate development firm, Li enjoys relaxing at home. He appreciates the peaceful nature of the city and its multiculturalism.

“Being respected and treated so well by all the community gives me the confidence to want to expand (my efforts),” he says. 

A fitness enthusiast, Li is a regular user of Clement Track at Minoru Park, where he also enjoys the other amenities.

“I like to challenge myself,” he explains. “Football (soccer) is my favourite sport (noting that as a boy, his parents sent him to soccer training).”

Li still plays soccer, but has also become an accomplished distance runner, having competed in at least four BMO marathons. And he’s been swimming regularly of late, in hopes of entering his first Ironman competition.

“I’m hoping to try to make it next year, or maybe even this year,” he says.

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