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The Molly Appeal is an annual public fundraising campaign that Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation has been promoting for over 40 years. Each year, ‘the Molly’, as it’s adoringly referred to in the halls of DMRF, embodies the Maritime culture of caring, and the woman behind the campaign’s name. So who was this pioneer of giving who left such an impactful legacy to be the namesake of a near half-century DMRF tradition?

Meet Molly Moore

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Molly Moore making the first 'online donation' to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation

Born at the turn of the century in a rural Nova Scotia farming village, Molly Moore was a woman of little means and a big heart. As described in a Halifax Herald article from Feb 11, 1980 “She is a countrywoman, with all the basic sense and down-to-earth honesty endowed on the best of her generation”. In Molly’s youth, clothes, toys, and school supplies were often handed down from older to younger generations, and Christmas and birthday presents consisted of hand-knitted mittens and woolen socks. A young Molly married and raised children, through sickness, health, joy, and sadness. Once a widow, Molly rolled up her sleeves and went to work to provide for her young family - the money never came easy. When sickness came to the community, and people were too sick to work, neighbor farmers helped each other, turning the cows out to pasture and calling the herd home to milk. There was a true sense of community and they shared their sorrows when common childhood diseases of the time left families broken and mourning. Diphtheria, meningitis, and infantile paralysis were the common plagues of Molly’s era.

In her 70’s, when Molly first heard of the ongoing medical research happening at Dalhousie University, she felt she had too insignificant an income to contribute with impact. She told her family physician of her financial insecurities, and desire to help, and he informed her that in those days, even a dollar would buy a dozen test tubes, and “nothing could be more practical than that”.

“There are plenty of Nova Scotians like me. They would like to give too. But they feel their dollar isn’t enough. You should tell them their dollars are needed too!”

Molly Moore to her family physician

A meeting to remember

In 1976, when Dr. Donald Hatcher was appointed the new Dean of Medicine at Dalhousie University, he quickly noted the quality of the lab equipment in the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building was reaching its tenure, and in need of some updating. In recognizing the local talent in health research, and the need for medical research and development in the region, Dr. Hatcher committed to fundraising enough to present his faculty with adequate and innovative equipment and resources to ensure the momentum of groundbreaking research. Dr. Hatcher went on to form the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, meeting with local philanthropists, and prominent community members to contribute to the initial funds, including setting up a meeting with Mrs. Nora Balders, a Guinness heiress living in the heart of Halifax’s South End.

During this noteworthy meeting, it was determined that Mrs. Balders would give a profound $1 million to support local medical research if the goal of a $10 million endowment was targeted. While Mr. H. Reuben Cohen, one of DMRF’s founding Board members was leaving the home of Mrs. Balders, he was approached by her housekeeper, Molly Moore. She had overheard much of the conversation surrounding the need for fundraising for health research and was profoundly moved. Molly stated that she believed deeply in medical and health research, and she pressed a crumpled up five-dollar bill into the hand of Mr. Cohen, saying that if everyone just gave what they could, together, surely we could make a difference.

Molly stated that she believed deeply in medical and health research, and she pressed a crumpled up five-dollar bill into the hand of Mr. Cohen, expressing her opinion to him that if everyone just gave what they could, together, surely we could make a difference.
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The Molly Appeal is born

When Mr. Cohen relayed this story to Dean Hatcher and Bill Sobey, they were sincerely touched. As her idea filtered through the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building, the thought came about that there could be many other people who felt the same way as Molly, and that there was an opportunity for a grassroots fundraising campaign to echo Molly Moore’s spirit and philosophy of giving. Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sobey returned to Mrs. Balders’ home, and approached Molly with the idea, and requested permission to use her name. She was an incredibly humble lady and agreed to the use of her name, however chose to use only her first name. And thus, in 1980, the annual Molly Appeal campaign was born. Molly’s idea was adopted and the appeal to the public was made–as Molly had suggested–for each Nova Scotian to give at least $1 to Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, in pursuit of health and medical research for the people of the Maritimes.

Molly’s generosity, philanthropy, spirit, and kindness are a legacy that we here at DMRF attempt to embody each and every day. Molly’s mindset stuck with her year-round, but aligns beautifully with the spirit of giving surrounding the holidays; Molly believed that if everyone made a gift to support medical research, together we could invoke change, development, and growth. Molly Moore continued to give what she could throughout her life.

In the great words of Molly Moore “Research is the best medicine”.

As we continue our journey through the COVID19 pandemic, medical research has never been more relevant, valuable, and in demand.

Give a gift to generations to come, the gift of research, health, and progress.

Your gifts to the annual Molly Appeal support health research happening right here in the Maritimes. Molly's commitment continues to inspire thousands of people to give to the annual appeal, which has raised over $6 million to date. Molly was always in complete awe of what her small donation had started, but certainly not surprised by the generosity of Maritimers.

While Molly passed away in 1998, her legacy lives on through the Molly Appeal every single year. The appeal continues to support researchers and their groundbreaking – and lifesaving – health research right here at home.


This year, be a Molly, give what you can, and give the gift of health research so that generations to come can access youth mental health care in a way that works best for them. 

Learn more  about this years Molly Appeal Campaign for youth mental health.