Tribute To Michael Willingham

It is with great sadness we share that the inspiration for our charity, Michael Willingham, passed away peacefully on Sunday, October 11th, 2020.

The story of the BC Hospitality Foundation began in the Fall of 2006 when long-time wine agent Michael Willingham had a brain aneurysm. It caused partial paralysis, left him unable to swallow, and damaged his lungs’ ability to breathe while sleeping.  He wasn’t expected to survive, but surprised everyone by fighting back to a point where he could walk short distances on his own. Unfortunately, there was no clear medical solution, and the financial hardship he incurred was severe. Willingham’s colleagues in the wine industry rallied and raised an initial $50,000 to help with his situation.

Willingham was deeply touched, but his experience made him realize how many people in the service industry —servers, cooks, baristas, concierges, brew masters, and more—exist precariously, often one missed paycheque or surprise health diagnosis away from financial disaster. He accepted the support, but with the recommendation that his colleagues set up a charitable organization that could provide similar help for others in the hospitality industry. They agreed, and thus the BC Hospitality Foundation was born.

Together, they created BCHF as a registered charity that raises funds to support those in the hospitality industry facing financial crisis due to a serious health condition. Each year, hospitality workers across B.C. face financial challenges and have nowhere else to turn. The BCHF helps them when all other options have been exhausted. We are the ONLY charity of its kind in Canada.

The BCHF, its founders, friends and many beneficiaries are forever grateful to Michael, who not only inspired the foundation’s genesis but also continued to support its activities even as he struggled with his own ongoing challenges. Truly, Michael Willingham made a difference in the lives of many people. He will be always in our thoughts.

The Estate of Michael Willingham has donated $5,000 towards a Legacy Scholarship Fund that will support the BCHF Industry Scholarship.