The Friends of University Avenue is a non-profit organization of private citizens working in partnership with the City of Toronto to illuminate and activate the grand boulevard of Toronto, University Avenue. Through our initiative “Reimagining University Avenue”, the city’s Hospital Row will be transformed into a beacon of light and hope for the patients, caregivers, families and all residents and visitors to Toronto who experience University Avenue as their artery through the city day and night.

Founded by Christine Ralphs in 2017 (see Christine’s story), “Reimagining University Avenue” is a unique project for the City of Toronto. It signals a new partnership between the City and private donors and individuals to influence what our city can aspire to. When this initiative began, no one would have imagined how it would have even more relevance today. It is now more important than ever to shine a light on the frontline workers, patients, and indeed all citizens who have had to modify their lifestyles for the common good. The health and greening, urban night lighting and public art of our cities are more essential than ever; we need places of calm, beauty and respite that are accessible to all.

In Loving Memory of
Christine Ralphs • 1948-2021 • Founder, The Friends of University Avenue

Christine Ralphs with Lucky

Photo, Ola Sirant

Christine Ralphs inspired friends, colleagues and city builders to join her in reimagining University Avenue, illuminating Toronto’s grand boulevard and shining a light for the healthcare practitioners, caregivers and patients of Hospital Row. Christine thrived to see her vision realized in the launch of “Radiant Journey” on October 19, 2021. Its light continues to shine for Christine and all the city of Toronto.

This is how the initiative to bring light and beauty to University Avenue began, see Christine’s Story below in her own words.

Christine's Story

Welcome, I’m Christine Ralphs, founder of The Friends of University Avenue.

“Reimagining University Avenue” began as a very personal initiative. I have spent much of the last nine years of my life on University Avenue. My husband, Peter Ralphs, was a patient at Princess Margaret for four years. A year after Peter passed away, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I’ve been a patient at Princess Margaret for the past five years.

When I’m in the hospital I see people of every age, background and walk of life and I see the amazing work being done by our hospitals, doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners. I also see people less fortunate than myself; people in need of hope and inspiration.

I have always wanted to give back for the life I’ve been lucky enough to live, and one cold October night in 2017 when I was leaving the hospital alone, the answer came to me. As I stepped out into the “black hole” that was University Avenue I realized what I could do. I could illuminate University Avenue. I could create a beacon of light and hope for all the patients, families, health care professionals and people of Toronto who use University Avenue as their main north-south artery through the city day and night.

I took my idea to a group of friends from the worlds of design, architecture, communications and landscape design and The Friends of University Avenue was born. The Friends of University Avenue is now a non-profit organization of private citizens working with the City of Toronto to realize our initiative “Reimagining University Avenue”.

Through The Friends of University Avenue, many dedicated, talented and generous people have joined my once singular journey. Together, our initiative “Reimagining University Avenue” will positively affect the lives of so many. I ask you to join us in lighting the darkness.

Christine, Toronto, 2017

“As Mayor of the City of Toronto, I express my enthusiastic support for the citizen-led initiative, Reimagining University Avenue, and I am committed to working with The Friends of University Avenue towards the realization of this vision.” – MAYOR JOHN TORY

“I just read the article this morning in the Globe and Mail about the lighting project and I’m very excited. I’m a nurse in the OR at TGH and we overlook University. It really is dark at night. How lovely it would be to have a gorgeous light up there, something patients could look out at, take their minds off things for a moment, to give a break from the business of the hospital. This lighting project would open up a beautiful street for all to enjoy. Thank you for your fabulous idea. I’m looking forward to seeing it.” – MAUREEN WOOD, REGISTERED NURSE, TORONTO GENERAL HOSPITAL