Alberta Cancer Foundation

Bust a Move

What do you do for an encore after putting on the world’s longest hockey game to raise funds for cancer research? Try the world’s largest (and possibly longest) fitness class.

On March 24, 2012, the Alberta Cancer Foundation will launch a new fundraiser, the first of its kind in Western Canada. Imagine hundreds of enthusiastic participants dressed in outrageous costumes – jumping and jiving, stretching and sweating, grooving and groaning – for six straight hours as they work out together in a giant fitness class at Edmonton’s Northlands Expo Centre.

WORK IT: A promotional mini-event in Edmonton drummed up interest in next spring’s fitness extravaganza.
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The event is called Bust a Move for Breast Health, or BaM! You have to include that exclamation mark after the acronym, because the enthusiasm is catching. Bust A Move began in Halifax two years ago. But the day-long fitness extravaganza is too much fun for just one city, and in March Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton will host their own BaM! events.

Last year two members of the Alberta Cancer Foundation participated in the Halifax BaM! event and immediately knew they had to bring it to Alberta. “They loved its spirit, fun and energy,” says Brooke Rose, who’s organizing Edmonton’s BaM! inaugural event. Rose and other foundation members wanted to host a new signature event.

Rose is an event promotion specialist with the Alberta Cancer Foundation, but she’d rather you call her “chief Bust-a-Mover” until the event is over. She’s already training and fundraising to participate in the event herself, and explains how it works.

“The six hours are divided into six types of exercise sessions, led by local fitness leaders,” says Rose. “We’ll have everything from Zumba to yoga to kick-boxing. Our goal is to recruit as many participants as we can who are each challenged to raise $1,000. People can sign up on their own or enter as teams, and we really encourage the team idea. It’s more fun to be part of a group effort, where you come up with a crazy team name and costumes, with more support to keep going.” Teams can raise funds as a group, letting members who raise more help secure a spot for others who raise less.

Take some inspiration from Kate Watt, one of 13 BaM! committee members. She’s volunteering because “this cause is near and dear to my heart,” she says. Her mother, Heather, was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer when Watt was 19. It hit Watt hard. Heather, had already recovered from uterine cancer when Watt was in Grade 8, but this time she was old enough to feel she needed to do something to help her mother through her second cancer journey. She’d just started university, but she withdrew so she could accompany her mother to medical appointments. Still, she kept wondering what else she could do.

“It’s so easy to say ‘Why my Mom? Why again?’” says Watt. “But that puts you in a negative space. So I switched my mindset to ‘How can I help?’”

For Watt, the answer was fundraising. Since she was involved in equestrian show-jumping, she came up with the idea of an event at a horse show. She met with Alberta Cancer Foundation staff and the concept became “Bringing Home the Dream”  – a brunch for 250 people held at the 2005 Edmonton Northlands Horse Show. Tickets sold for $250 a plate and, with other donations, the event raised $86,000.

But Watt didn’t stop there. She was so impressed with Dr. Michael Sawyer, the oncologist who never gave up on her mother (who is now cancer-free) that she made a pledge to raise $300,000 over three years to support his research. She raised $340,000, an amount that Dr. Sawyer credits with making a huge difference in his research to find alternative treatments to chemotherapy.
“If you put your mind to it and never give up – my mother and Dr. Sawyer never did – you can accomplish great things,” says Watt. “Don’t be scared about raising $1,000. You can do it; you’ll surpass it. You’ll be surprised.”

Leah Kirtio is another committee member who shares Watt’s philosophy.

“It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. You just need to reach out to your network, and social media makes it so easy. If you have 100 friends, ask them for $10 each. And when five friends tell another five friends, before you know it you’ll hit your goal.”

Kirtio also has a special story to tell, since she’ll be participating at BaM! as a breast cancer graduate. Now 25, she was diagnosed at 23. “I’m so lucky I found the lump early,” Kirtio says. “Now I’m passionate about using my experience to show others the importance of examining their breasts regularly. I was active and healthy, but they discovered I have a genetic predisposition.” Kirtio says the experience was life-changing. “I’m more understanding now, and more involved with others. I want to go to law school so I can advocate for people in the health-care system.”

So, raising $1,000 isn’t an impossible goal. But maybe you’re still apprehensive about making it through six hours of exercise. “Don’t worry!” says Rose. “We’ll have 15-minute breaks after each session, and participants can take a breather whenever they like. We’ll have lots of energizing, healthy food and massage stations set up. And everyone will have the option of doing the exercises at high, low or medium impact levels.”

GOOD SPORTS: Kate Watt, a BaM committee member, gets her 80s on. Her mom, Heather, is a two-time cancer graduate and a trustee of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Both Kirtio and Watt participated in the BaM! kick-off media event, held on a sunny but chilly October day in Edmonton’s Churchill Square. Along with about 100 others, they hip-hopped, boogied, rumbaed and improvised their way through a 20-minute Zumba session. Neither had tried the Latin-inspired dance-fitness craze before.

“I was terrible at it!” laughs Watt. “But we laughed, had fun and shared time together. And that’s the whole point of BaM! Together we can have fun – and make a difference.”

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