Alberta Cancer Foundation

Deep Roots in the Community

As paper leaves, butterflies and cardinals flutter around in September and October, Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. wants its customers to fill its Tree of Life with their thoughtful donations. Since 2002, the Canadian retail drug store has raised more than $13 million through the annual four-week fall campaign. Shoppers has changed its initial direction of the Tree of Life giving to one charity to allowing store owners (known as “associates”) to decide which charity in their community they want to support.

Including Edmonton associate and pharmacist Kelly LaForge’s Summerside store, 25 locations opted to support women’s health causes and fundraise for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Cross Cancer Institute’s Arts in Medicine program. (In addition, as Shoppers was the national sponsor along with its Quebec-based Pharmaprix stores for the 2010 Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, Edmonton locations raised more than $97,300 and Calgary locations raised more than $68,500.)

While customers who purchase donations in the form of leaves ($1), butterflies ($5) and cardinals ($50) are the main drivers behind the fundraising for Tree of Life, LaForge says, “There’s a hundred different things happening. Everybody does it differently at each of the locations.”

The associates set targets for their stores and encourage their teams to hit those numbers through barbeques, bake sales and raffles – anything to build awareness and bring in donations. Other times, stores have competed in a friendly rivalry to see who can raise more.

Although the final numbers for this year’s Tree of Life in Edmonton weren’t yet in at the end of October, LaForge says the estimate is $48,810. In 2009, the Edmonton stores brought in almost $60,300 for the Cross Cancer Institute. This was an astounding increase over 2007’s nearly $35,250. LaForge attributes this to each store’s responsibility to choose a cause.

“Now that we choose our own, people are more passionate about it and have their personal reasons for choosing the charity.”

The decision to donate to the Arts in Medicine program came about when the Edmonton associates learned that one of their colleagues’ wives who had breast cancer was taking part in the program.

“She was so passionate about the program and what a difference that it made in her life being able to sit down with a group of people where she didn’t feel like she was in a health group. It was about just having fun, learning something and not thinking about cancer.”

To learn more about the program, the Edmonton associates visited the program’s patients and facilitators.

LaForge is hopeful that 2011 will have bigger and better results. She plans to work with the Alberta Cancer Foundation in the new year to strategize an introduction for the next campaign as well as learn about different programs needing support.

“Everybody in the community is touched in some way by cancer,” she says. “As pharmacists, we’re involved with patients and their families every day.”

For more information about Tree of Life, visit www.shoppersdrugmart.ca.

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