"The arts are food for the soul"

A letter from NBS donor Derrick G. Chiu

The journey to create the Yvonne YK Chiu Fund for Youth at Canada's National Ballet School (NBS) was both a personal memorial to honour a mother from her son, as well as a hopefully fitting epitaph for a distinguished lady's devotion to her passions and her society.

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Left: Yvonne YK Chiu with son, Derrick; Right: John HC Chiu, Yvonne YK Chiu and Derrick G. Chiu.
Photos provided by the family.


When my dear Mom passed in 2009, there was an obvious outpouring of sorrow and regret for our loss, especially since someone who had accomplished so much, and had touched so many, had departed at the much too early age of 65 years. For her many contributions to volunteerism, Yvonne Yan-Kiu Chiu was invested into the Order of Canada in May 2001, and was a valued member of the Board of Directors of Canada’s National Ballet School from 1997 to 2000.

Personally, I felt a duty to help continue my Mom's exceptional efforts and energy in being able to make a difference in people's lives, and tried to keep in touch with as many of her friends and life as possible. So, when NBS asked if my family would consider a way in which to benefit NBS in honour of my Mom’s name, I was eager to discuss the possibility with my father. He said it was my decision to make, but distilled it to what he felt would be Mom’s most heartfelt wish: for every child in their lifetime to have an opportunity to listen to at least one concert, visit one museum, dance in one class, play one instrument, write one poetry verse, in the continuing vein of my parents' love of the arts and culture, as well as the bond that brought them together.

But dance had a particular appeal to my Mom and her life. She studied ballet as a young girl in her birth town of Shanghai, China; the National Ballet of Canada was her first appointment as a Board Director, when she was first "discovered" as a different type of fan at their performances in the early 80's: front row seats at the old Okeefe Centre for 3 shows in a row, a woman of ethnicity in a traditionally Anglo Saxon audience; and she was asked to be a den mother and sponsor to 3 prominent Chinese ballet dancers at NBC, all now proud Canadian citizens, one of whom recently celebrated her 20 year anniversary at NBC as a prima ballerina, and 2 of which are NBS alumni, as well as becoming my beloved Godbrother and Godsister!

I knew that NBS’ focus on the arts and education appealed to my Mom's dual passions, and this ultimately led to my approval of creating the Fund, with a specific mandate of helping underprivileged kids have an opportunity to receive expert tutelage from NBS staff both onsite and at schools across the country; to be able to utilize newer technologies of online dance tools and software; and finally, to partner with yet another of my Mom's legacies, the Share the Music program at Roy Thomson and Massey Hall, which provides show tickets and logistics to students at various public schools in the GTA.

I personally proceeded to seed the Fund and made a mass appeal to friends and family to do the same, in memorial of my Mom. The response was overwhelmingly positive and touching. The Fund currently stands at more than $178,000, and is a prominent sponsor of NBS' main education and outreach program, Sharing Dance.

This past winter, two close friends and I had an idea to throw an old school Christmas holiday party, but wanted to have a purpose that helped others, so charity goals were created. Interestingly enough, one of them had no specific charity in mind but after reading about my Mom's work, was happy enough to make her fund at NBS a cause of his own. The ensuing success of selling party tickets and charity auction allowed for a significant donation to the Fund and we hope to continue this event for years to come.

My Mom's life’s passion was for the arts and she held an unwavering commitment to the belief that the arts should benefit ALL in our society – espousing the fervent belief that youth in particular, regardless of their cultural or socio-economic backgrounds, have a right to access any and all arts and cultural experiences. Her efforts to foster arts educational experiences for Toronto’s youth were as tireless as they were effective. In this regard, her favourite motto was that “The arts are food for the soul” and she tried to provide sustenance to all who were willing to try.

This Fund is a son's reply to that clarion call.


Derrick G. Chiu

Yvonne Yan-Kiu Chiu was a professor at the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus, where she dedicated her career to education in the fields of microbiology and genetics for over 30 years, and was named one of U of T's "Great Minds" for their 175th anniversary in 2002. She was a committed Board Member, patron, and volunteer for many of Toronto's arts organizations, including the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, the National Ballet of Canada, Canadian Opera Company, Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Textile Museum, the Stratford Festival, and many more. As a vanguard of the large Chinese Canadian community in Toronto, she was an integral organizer for Toronto's International Caravan, the Cathay Ball, and the Chinese Cultural Centre for Greater Toronto.

Do you want to honour a loved one's legacy?

Establishing a Named Fund through Canada's National Ballet School Foundation memorializes your loved one's passions, talents and interests in perpetuity, and increases access to high quality dance programming for people of all ages and abilities every year. To learn more about this unique opportunity, please contact:

Brittany McLeod
Development Officer, Legacy & Major Gifts
416.964.3780 x2146

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