Alberta Cancer Foundation

Stronger Together

It was at regular support meetings run by social worker Lisa Lamont at Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre that lung cancer patient Judith Winer (diagnosed six years ago at age 49) and her husband Gordon started meeting other patients with the same disease. Dealing with an isolating diagnosis and an under funded disease, the couple found therapeutic benefits to fundraising. “This kind of involvement is a concrete way that patients can make a difference,” Lamont says. “It gives hope that change is ahead.”

The Winers heard about an opportunity from Lamont. Julie Toft, a travel consultant with Expedia CruiseShipCenters at Fish Creek in Calgary, was looking for people to serve on a committee to help her plan the fifth annual THE Beach Party, a band, a dance and a silent auction to benefit lung cancer. The Winers and three other members of Lamont’s group joined. (“I voluntold him to join,” Judith says of Gordon.) The Winers’ goal this year is $10,000. They hope their events will grow to fill the void in lung cancer fundraising. The fourth annual THE Beach Party takes place at Crossroads Community Centre in Calgary on November 26. Attendees can count on a band, a dance and a silent auction.

Toft calls the committee “voluntherapy.” For a while members can step away from being patients and get into planning. “To date we’ve raised $26,000 from this event,” says Toft. “Money goes to two funds set up by Dr. Elizabeth Kurien: the Southern Alberta Lung Tumour Group Research Fund and the Patient Education Fund.”

In addition to THE Beach Party, travel consultant Toft has another ongoing project. A few years ago Toft, like the Winers, was looking for a way to help. At one time she’d worked in the radiation department of the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, and the experience left her with some good connections. Toft spoke to Dr. Colum Smith at the centre about an idea she had to raise funds with the help of Expedia’s Charitable Cruising Program. “He felt lung cancer would be a good target,” Toft says, noting the dearth of funds directed to its treatment and research. Cruising for Cancer was born.

It works like this: Fundraisers book a block of cabins. Points are applied to sales against the block and turned into cash that gets directed to a charity – in this case the Alberta Cancer Foundation. “The first three cruises we did were specifically for lung cancer,” Toft says. (Now cruisers can direct their donations.) Some of the doctors who attended gave talks about what was new on the horizon for treatment and research.

Attendees include current and former cancer patients and family members, doctors, other medical staff and vacationers who want to make their vacation dollars do a little good work. The fifth annual cruise departs from Florida on February 19, 2012 for the Caribbean.

To book a cabin on the Cruising for Cancer trip or to buy a ticket to THE Beach Party, contact Julie Toft, at 403-829-5075 or julietoft@cruiseshipcenters.com.