At 32, Stephanie Valentinuzzi’s profession as civil engineer has already taken her to great heights.
She worked on a 40-storey office tower in downtown Vancouver and before that, the Olympic speed skating oval in Richmond. The completed buildings evoke in her a sense of pride. They feel like her "babies."
But of all her projects to date, her work on the Teck Acute Care Centre (Teck ACC) holds the deepest meaning.
When Stephanie was just 17, her mother Esterina was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
During her cancer treatments, Esterina would say, "You know, I can get through this." But she found watching children in the treatment rooms harder to bear, Stephanie recalls.
Esterina sought a way to help. After 35 years as a teacher, she refocused her career to become an English as a second language and home hospital teacher.
"She was always saying, 'whatever we can do to get these kids through tough times'."
Esterina succumbed to her cancer after a six-year remission in 2011. And when Stephanie found out her company Ledcor Construction would be involved in building the new Teck ACC, she lobbied to join the team. It would be her way to pay tribute to her mother's lifelong passion for helping children.
"I went to talk to some of the managers and said this would be something my whole heart would be invested in. It would be a long term project for me. I wouldn't just start on it and go …. I'd be there to the bitter end just to be part of it."
Stephanie's parents were both born in Italy and immigrated at a young age. Esterina knew how difficult it is to learn a new language and after she became a teacher, sought to help children with the biggest challenges, Stephanie says. What bigger challenge is there for a child than being in hospital or being at home with care?
"She felt they needed a loving, caring and supportive teacher to try to lift them up and help them through the tough times," Stephanie says.
"So being on this hospital project is a big nod to my mom that we're giving back to these little kids and understanding everything she was as a teacher."
Stephanie finds satisfaction knowing the new Teck ACC will help entire families. "Every day I leave the site and see these parents walking by and I can tell they've had really hard days. We can give them these private rooms with their kids where they'll have a chance to rest beside them and have a comfortable place. It's for them too."
As the job comes to a close, Stephanie will leave feeling proud of her contribution to the project. "This one in particular will be definitely something I'll be telling my family about. This is a good contribution to all of BC's kids. Super special."
Note: A huge thanks to our media partners who also shared these stories.