Chantal Keech and Jenna Trousdale had never met prior to fundraising for the Canadian Cancer Society on April 7th, but they quickly realised they had more in common than volunteer work.
As they stood outside the LCBO in Sydenham collecting donations for the Cancer Society, the two discovered that both had lost their fathers to cancer. Keech, 27, lost her father, Kevin, to melanoma skin cancer in November of last year. Trousdale, 29, was much younger when her father, Eugene Smithson, lost his battle with colon cancer eight years ago. It was those losses and an urge to give back to the cancer community that drove the two to volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Month campaign.
Throughout the month of April, volunteers accept donations for daffodil pins. The daffodil is the symbol of the Canadian Cancer Society and the pins are worn in support of those living with cancer and their caregivers, or in memory of those who have been lost to the disease. The money raised through pin box donations supports several local initiatives such as the Wheels of Hope program, which organises rides for cancer patients who would otherwise be unable to make it to treatment.
When her father was first diagnosed, Keech says she looked for resources about cancer treatment and how she could help her father through his diagnosis and found the Canadian Cancer Society.
“When my dad was ill, it was comforting to know that there’s an organization out there that is committed to research and to supporting and empowering Canadians living with cancer,” she says.
Being able to discuss their fathers’ deaths was nice because it’s not a topic that often comes up in conversation, Trousdale says. “She was really open about her situation. I’ve never really talked about what happened so it was nice to talk to her and see her perspective.”
Discussing with someone who had gone through the loss that she had experienced was empowering, Keech added.
“I think it’s an empowering feeling to have that kind of mutual understanding of what it’s like to lose a parent,” she says. “There’s a lot of passion and to be able to transfer it from a loss to volunteer work is a wonderful feeling.”
Transforming that feeling of loss into a passion to fight cancer is something that spurs many volunteers, says April McCann, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Kingston FLA & The Waterways community office.
“Whether it’s a family member, a friend or they themselves are a survivor, there’s a fit with becoming involved and giving back,” McCann says. “People volunteering with us appreciate that their hard work means more cancer support in their community.”
The fact that money raised by the Canadian Cancer Society in the Kingston area goes back into Kingston and not to larger cities is important, Keech says.
“These people are donating their money in hopes that it will help them or a family member right here in our own community,” she says. “For the Canadian Cancer Society to have volunteers doing outreach beyond the city limits is important so that residents on the outskirts are aware that they’re not being left out and that these services are available to them,” Keech added.
The support from the community was overwhelming, Trousdale says. Cancer is a disease that has a way of bringing the community together, she added. “Cancer can bring people together in a way. People can bond over the similar experiences and it teaches you to value life a lot more.”
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month campaign runs until the end of April. For more information, or to donate, visit www.cancer.ca/daffodil or donate when you see one of the many pin boxes throughout the community.
Matthew Murray is a journalist and public relations specialist from Kingston, Ontario with years of both local and national journalistic experience in text, audio and video story production. He has written for and worked with several media outlets including the CBC, the Belleville Inteligencer and Belleville’s QNet News. Currently, he volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society in Kingston to help support all those affected by the disease.
Release: Matthew Murray