Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation

Wellspring is a network of community-based support centres offering programs and services that meet the emotional, social, practical and restorative needs of people living with cancer and those who care for them. Wellspring programs are offered free of charge. www.wellspring.ca

Our Impact Why We Exist

In Toronto, cancer appears three times in the City's top ten leading causes of death (lung/bronchus, colon/rectum/anus and lymph/blood). Cancer of the lung and bronchus was the 3rd leading cause of death.- Toronto Vital Signs Report 2015

Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation:

  • Meets the social, emotional, practical and restorative needs of people living with cancer and those who care for them.
  • Assists people living with cancer in re-establishing control over their lives.
  • Provides training and education opportunities for healthcare professionals.
  • Help cancer patients and their families learn to cope with the fear, isolation, anxiety, pain and financial worries that can come with a cancer diagnosis.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Wellspring was founded in Toronto in 1992 by Anne Armstrong Gibson, who had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989. Along with all her other fears about treatment, survival and the future of her husband and two young children, Anne experienced something more: an overwhelming sense of isolation. She quickly realized that this was an all too common experience among cancer patients, and became determined to fill the void.

With the help and encouragement of some of the leading experts in the field of oncology, Anne worked with family, friends and supporters to establish Wellspring, a non-profit organization offering psychosocial, emotional, practical and informational support to individuals and families living with cancer.

Anne’s vision for Wellspring was to create a Canada-wide network of community-based centres that would provide people with the tools they required to cope with cancer. In 1992, Wellspring opened its first centre, The Coach House, on Wellesley Street East in Toronto. Wellspring now has the following centres in the Greater Toronto Area:

Accolades and Accomplishments

Wellspring benefits from the strong support and continued professional input of an outstanding group of oncology clinicians, researchers, and allied health professionals who volunteer their time and expertise, on Board Committees, to help Wellspring to maintain its standards of excellence in cancer supportive care.

Recognition of Wellspring’s rigorous Quality Review Process as a benchmark for organizational excellence, by a team of oncology and evaluation experts, has helped Wellspring to establish itself as a credible and trusted partner within the oncology sector. An article in the peer-reviewed Journal for Healthcare Quality, praises Wellspring’s Quality Review Process, as a unique and praise-worthy component of an overall commitment to continuous quality assurance.

Growth in demand for Wellspring’s programs and services in each year of operations has been significant and, in 2015, we welcomed over 2,600 new Wellspring members. Much of Wellspring’s ability to meet this demand resides with its strong and loyal volunteer base. There are more than 300 trained volunteers who work regular shifts across all 4 GTA centres, many of whom have been with the organization since its inception. This is the best accolade of all.

In 2002, Wellspring established its Centre of Innovation, which has fostered some of the most innovative cancer support programs available anywhere in Canada, and continues to maintain the highest standards of operations at all levels of the organization.

Our Programs How We Do It

Across its network of centres, Wellspring offers more than 40 programs and services providing psychosocial and emotional support, as well as coping skills and information, at no charge, primarily to individuals and families living with cancer, as well as their caregivers, loved ones, support persons, and health care professionals. Individuals of all ages and from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, come to Wellspring to learn about cancer, find emotional support, and develop coping skills.

Wellspring programs provide people with a variety of unique mechanisms for coping with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and its impact on patients, family members (including children) and professional caregivers. In addition to one-to-one peer support, each centre offers support groups and coping skills programs that aid in stress management. Short-term counselling, bereavement support and educational workshops on specific topics of interest to members are also provided on a regular basis. All programs are offered in a welcoming and home-like environment, and confidentiality is assured.

In addition to registering more than 41,000 visits in the Greater Toronto Area each year, Wellspring has adopted a broader community role by initiating research projects, participating in and advising on community health projects, and working in partnership with other agencies and institutions to promote healthy behaviours, educate about cancer prevention, and improve the quality of life for patients, their family members, children, and support persons.


Cancer Exercise

Designed for patients at any stage of cancer treatment, Wellspring’s ground-breaking Cancer Exercise program has received praise from healthcare professionals as providing the best possible vehicle for the promotion of healthy behaviour.

The comprehensive evidence-based and professionally-led Cancer Exercise program has three components:

1. Individual Assessment: Patients meet with a trained Exercise Rehabilitation Specialist to develop a personalized exercise program. Different fitness levels, cancers and individual needs are all taken into account in developing individualized exercise plans. *A physician's consent to participate in exercise is required.

2. 20-Week Program: Participants attend 2 one-hour sessions each week for twenty weeks in a group setting. These sessions are supervised by specially trained physiotherapists and kinesiologists and the individual's program is adapted as they progress.  

3. Transitional Package: Following the group sessions, individuals are discharged with a transitional package to follow at home or in a community fitness centre setting.

This program is conveniently located at all four centres in the GTA.

Program Impact

Recent medical research clearly indicates that exercise is a critical tool in the recuperative process for cancer patients. Exercise has been shown to reduce a patient’s level of fatigue, depression and anxiety, and to lessen cancer- and treatment-related symptoms . Some studies even indicate that exercise can help to significantly reduce the chance of recurrence. Wellspring recently completed a comprehensive two-year assessment of its Cancer Exercise program. Results showed that the program had a positive impact on a number of physical, emotional and quality of life outcomes.

Participant Vignette

“This program saved me. I was at an all time low emotionally and physically. The support, guidance and encouragement was exactly what I needed. I believe rehabilitation is as important as an accurate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. I am so pleased my doctor encouraged me to pursue this. I only wish I could stay in the program longer. Thank you for the opportunity to participate, to improve my sense of well-being and to gain back strength and my ability to walk and move.”

~Cancer Exercise program participant

Money Matters Program

Wellspring’s Money Matters program provides professional guidance and advice to help cancer patients navigate through the maze of income replacement programs and options for drug coverage when too sick to work. Members are able to meet one-on-one with a professional case manager who has extensive knowledge of a variety of income programs to help each person map out options to help during their period of treatment and recovery. What makes the Money Matters program both unique and helpful is the extensive knowledge of each income program, as well as, how the programs work together during a prolonged absence from work. Case Managers regularly assist members to access Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance Benefits, Canada Pension Plan and Long Term Disability Benefits.

Program Impact

Over 90 per cent of cancer patients reported their income dropped when dealing with cancer, and over 80 per cent indicated their income dropped greater than $12,000/year.  With multiple income programs to access, cancer patients need access to expert knowledge to help manage the financial worries that accompany leaving work so patients can focus on better adherence to treatment and recovery.

Participant Vignette

“When I was diagnosed with cancer, I immediately began to worry about how I would survive financially if I couldn’t work. Many nights I lay in bed worrying about money. The Money Matters case manager helped me to apply for Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support program and the Canada Pension Plan, and told me about other helpful organizations in my community. I would have been lost without the Money Matters program”.

Returning to Work Program

Wellspring’s Returning to Work program helps employees with managing their return to work post-cancer. Many people who have gone through cancer treatment report ongoing symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, reduced mobility and fear and anxiety. They worry about adjusting back into the world of work, being productive and dealing with colleagues and managers. The eight (8) week Returning to Work program explores the many fears, challenges and barriers that cancer patients may have that could prevent a successful re-entry to the workforce. The program utilizes professional program leaders who have extensive knowledge in vocational rehabilitation and returning to work post cancer, and skills in support group leadership and adult education. The program provides educational information, practical tools to prepare for the return and opportunities to discuss concerns with other cancer patients.

Members attending the Returning to Work program also two parallel sessions – Returning to Work and legal concerns, and Returning to Work and Income Benefits.

Program Impact

Over 330,000 Canadians of working age will be diagnosed with cancer in the next five years. Research indicates that on average more than 60 per cent of cancer patients return to work after treatment. Many cancer survivors report ongoing symptoms including short-term cognitive deficits, ongoing fatigue and the physical and emotional stress of cancer and its treatments.

Wellspring’s Returning to Work program will help cancer patients to return to work in a more prepared and productive capacity.

Participant Vignette

”[This program] allowed me to recognize my strength when faced with challenges. It allowed me to articulate my concerns and figure out how to address them…[and how to] develop a plan and how to successfully execute it. I thought it was great! I have recommended it to other survivors. The social aspect was great, and also reminded me again that I am not alone -- we all face the same fears and anxieties related to returning to work.”


Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of self-care for individuals affected by cancer. Caregivers also often ask questions about proper nutrition, both for themselves and for their loved ones. Side effects of disease and treatment may include weight loss, loss of appetite, sore mouth or throat, dental issues, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and fatigue. Eating a well-balanced diet before, during and after treatment can help cancer patients feel better, improve and maintain strength and energy, decrease risk of infection and manage side effects. 

Wellspring’s Nourish program helps cancer patients and their caregivers to learn about what to eat, what to avoid and how to prepare nutritious foods in a way that is palatable when they don’t feel like eating. The program also teaches participants about the truth behind health food claims.  Nourish is currently being offered in our specially designed teaching kitchen facility at our locations.

Program Impact

The aim of the Nourish Program is to impart members with enhanced capacity to choose and prepare foods that reduce their risk of reoccurrence, and improve their overall health, energy and well-being, in a comprehensive format. As part of the Wellspring Nourish program, members are given a wide variety of resources and recipes to take home with them following a program, to promote their ability to practice the skills they have learned in the Wellspring kitchen at home. These include:

  • Canada’s Food Guide
  • American Institute for Cancer Research
  • Canadian Cancer Society booklets
  • Healthy recipes

Participant Vignette

Feedback on currently offered nutrition sessions:

“Great class! I am always looking for new recipes to try for continued healthy eating.”

“Great program! My only suggestion is to have it more often at Wellspring. This is absolutely my favourite program offered by Wellspring. I have learned so much new helpful information from these sessions.”

What You Can Do

Wellspring welcomes people who are passionate about giving back and who are committed to helping others. Whether you have experienced your own cancer journey, have been a caregiver to someone with cancer or are someone who has professional skills to share, Wellspring would welcome a conversation about your interests.

Ways to Give

Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation is a registered charitable organization that charges no fees and receives no government or other core funding. Programs and operations are made possible only through the generosity of donors. 

There are many Ways to Give to Support Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation:

Volunteer Program

Volunteers are the heart of Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation, providing support to every level of the organization. Below is a list of volunteer positions at Wellspring.

  • Peer Support
  • Front Desk Support
  • Program Assistance : Exercise, Healing Journey
  • Outreach Support
  • Administrative Support : Data input
  • Facility Support: Handyman/Handywoman
  • Fundraising Events

Volunteering with Wellspring is a great opportunity to make a difference in your community, help others, and learn new skills. Whether you have experienced your own cancer journey, have been a caregiver to someone with cancer, or if you are someone who has skills to share, Wellspring would welcome your support.

Click your local Wellspring centre for more information.

Wellspring Downtown TorontoWellspring Birmingham Gilgan House (Oakville)Wellspring Chinguacousy (Brampton)Wellspring Westerkirk House (Sunnybrook)

Host an Event

Organizing and holding a special event in support of Wellspring is a great way to do something you love while raising awareness for cancer support.

At Wellspring, we believe that no one should have to cope with cancer alone. With your help, we can join together to change lives. By holding a fundraising event for Wellspring, you are making a difference in the lives of people and their families who are coping with cancer.To help you in planning a third party event for Wellspring, a comprehensive Third Party Event guide and a number of tools and templates have been developed to assist you. You can access these tools by clicking here.

Wellspring requires that all events are registered in order to ensure organizers are provided with the appropriate support. You can register your event here.

For more information, or questions regarding your Third Party Event, please contact Nicole Beier at 416-961-1928 x 241 or email her at nicole@wellspring.ca.


Dawn Wasylow
Centre Manager- Wellspring Downtown Toronto
416.961.1928 x222
Charitable Number: 892728940RR0001

Finance & Governance


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