Essex Lease Golf Classic: creating a win-win for everyone

The Essex Lease Golf Classic is creating positive change for children with cancer — one chip, one putt, one birdie at a time. Now in its third year, the annual tournament has raised more than $300,000 for Kids Cancer Care, which translates into about 200 kids going to summer camp.

And the good news? They’re just getting started.

“During our first year of involvement, we went in thinking that Kids Cancer Care is there for the kids after visiting Camp Kindle,” says Ross Sten, Chief Executive Officer of Essex Lease Financial. “Then we realized that camp is really the tip of a massive iceberg of programs and services they offer. Kids Cancer Care offers so much more — not only for the kids but for the families facing this terrible disease. And when you hear from the kids themselves, you know you’re making an impact and that drives us even harder to make the tournament a success.”

The Essex Lease Golf Classic is creating magical camp experiences for children affected by cancer.

With 152 golfers, 24 volunteers, and 93 sponsors and silent auction donors, the 2023 tournament was by all accounts a huge success. It raised $140,280, doubling its revenue in three years.

To raise the stakes in 2023, Ross spearheaded the idea of a massive 50/50 raffle, involving six Can Do fundraising partners of Kids Cancer Care. Instead of running several small 50/50s, Ross imagined a gigantic 50/50 where all the fundraising partners would collaborate to promote the raffle and sell tickets at their events. We called it the MEGA 50/50 and it was truly a win, not just for the kids, but also for the lucky Calgarian who held the winning ticket.

“I can’t say enough about what Kids Cancer Care does for these families.”

Ross Sten, Essex Lease
Centre Left – Ross Sten, CEO of Essex Lease Financial, with his golf team at the 2023 tournament.

Essex Lease creates win-win partnerships in both play and work. The company offers equipment financing, asset-based lending, equipment rentals, and insurance to businesses. Essex prides itself on looking beyond the numbers and turning to character and trust to build long-term winning partnerships with clients.

Fortunately, Essex also takes a win-win approach to its CSR partnerships. CSR refers to a company’s commitment to environmental, ethical, philanthropic, and economic responsibility.

Christine McIver, Founder and CEO of Kids Cancer Care, agrees: “Essex isn’t interested in a flash-in-the-pan success. They’re in it for the long haul. They care about the children and families we serve, and they’re partnering to create an outstanding annual golf tournament that generates a consistent source of funding for our programs. We welcome the opportunity to partner with visionary leaders like Ross who help drive the economy while building a stronger community through collaboration.”

L-R Dawn Wallin with her daughter Ryane Nethery and friends at the 2023 tournament

Ryane Nethery, a Kids Cancer Care spokeskid, shared her cancer story at the tournament dinner. Diagnosed with cancer at age three, Ryane grew up going to Kids Cancer Care programs.

“Going to Camp Kindle gave me a sense of a normal childhood,” said Ryane. “I didn’t have to worry about being on treatment and having no hair. I didn’t have to worry about being bullied or what people might say when I told them I had cancer. Camp allowed me to be a kid and make friends with other kids who were similar to me. I can remember coming home countless times with a smile that hurt my cheeks, being so excited to tell my parents about my time at camp.”

L-R As toddlers, Madison and Ryane met at camp and quickly became best friends

While the chemotherapy left Ryane with a serious heart condition and a learning disability, she considers herself one of the lucky ones. With a lot of hard work and the help of a Kids Cancer Care tutor, Ryane graduated from high school — with an 81% average. After receiving a Kids Cancer Care Derek Wandzura Memorial Scholarship, Ryane studied at Mount Royal University and later SAIT. Today, she is working as a pharmacy assistant with Alberta Health Services.

“I have learned many important lessons through Kids Cancer Care,” said Ryane. “I cannot thank them enough for the difference they not only made in my life but in my family’s life. One of the mottos I still live by today is: ‘Cancer may have started this fight, but I’m finishing it.’”

With the support of Essex and its partners, Kids Cancer Care is able to help young people like Ryane build the skills and resilience they need to fight cancer from a place of strength and courage.

Essex Lease Financial, presenting Kids Cancer Care with a $140,280 cheque — funds that will help send kids with cancer to camp

“I can’t say enough about what Kids Cancer Care does for these families,” says Ross. “They are there when the child is diagnosed and when the child needs a tutor or exercise therapist to return to life outside the hospital. They’re there for the family when a child dies. Cancer isn’t over when the treatments stop, and Kids Cancer Care understands that. This is the kind of long-standing support we can get behind at Essex. I am extremely thankful to Essex staff, the sponsors, and Kids Cancer Care for what they are doing to make a difference for so many families.”

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


The speed of the car picks up and they enter what racers call the 100-mile-an-hour club. It is at that moment that Connor’s whole face lights up.

Sitting in a coffee shop in Calgary’s inner city on a chilly February afternoon, Brent Thorkelson describes one of his most memorable days.

In the sunny Okanagan on a gorgeous May long weekend, Brent is behind the wheel of his 2007 GT3 Porsche. A Porsche lover since he was five-years-old, Brent knows this car well.

His passenger is a young man named Connor. Earlier that day, Brent had met the shy preteen. Brent says, “Connor seemed so sad, he was quiet, almost depressed” as he climbed into his race suit, put on his helmet and was strapped into the five-point harness.

And he had every reason to be. This weekend was a rare break from his childhood cancer treatments.

Brent and Connor are driving up Knox Mountain as part of the Knox Mountain Climb, an annual event in Kelowna. Trees blur past them and the road winds. In just two minutes they have travelled 5km and climbed 800 feet. They’ve hit most of the ten turns on the route. The speed of the car picks up and they enter what racers call the 100-mile-an-hour club.

It is at that moment that Connor’s whole face lights up.

Brent can’t help but smile. It’s not the first or the last time he will venture up Knox Mountain. In fact, he does it every year.

Hands Together for a Cure is a passion project for Brent, his wife Lenora and their son Ben. Brent has always been involved in motorsport and wanted to use his passion to give back.

As an Advanced Care Paramedic for over 28 years, Brent finds himself on the scene of countless “accidents.” But he doesn’t love the word: “The term accident infers that nothing contributed to the event. More importantly, that the event was not preventable. As a practitioner, we see numerous incidents, but very few accidents. You can’t get a truer definition of this word than a child being afflicted with cancer. He or she did nothing what so ever to be “saddled” with this unforgiving disease.” The Thorkelsons wanted to do something to bring joy and laughter into these children’s lives.

That’s where the Knox Mountain Hill Climb comes in. Brent has been going to the Knox Mountain Climb since he was five. The event includes a beer garden, car show and the competitive climb. His dad, now 88, still joins him every year. He knew that something that brought him so much joy could also bring some happiness to these kids, if even just for a day between treatments.

Brent and his Porsche do about 12 to 13 drives up the hill through Hands Together for a Cure each year. The ride is unique in that it gives children an experience they wouldn’t otherwise get and at the same time it is a fundraiser. The kids ride for free, thanks to year-round fundraising through Hands Together for a Cure and donations from other drivers in the Knox Mountain Hill Climb. Brent sells the remaining spots at $500, with all the proceeds going to childhood cancer research, including Kids Cancer Care.

Humbly, Brent shares what goes into making the event a success: a website to maintain, pounding the pavement to sell rider spots, coordinating the kid spots with charities in British Columbia and Alberta, organizing transportation for the families (thanks to CanWest Air Charters), silent auctions, appearances, picking up cheques from donors. That doesn’t even touch upon the upkeep of the car, which is covered in handprints of children who have had cancer – a constant reminder for Brent and those involved as to why they do this every year.

And it’s all worth it.

Last year, Hands Together for a Cure broke $115,000 total raised in 6 years.

Connor and Brent are at the top of the course and start heading back down the hill. The other drivers unbuckle (no easy task) and get out of the cars. Marshalls line the route and give a standing ovation.

And on the way down, all Connor could say was, “Wow!” Brent can still hear the words clearly in his mind, like it was yesterday.

All the funds raised from Hands Together for a Cure are making a difference in the lives of children affected by cancer. The funds donated to Kids Cancer Care research to change the course of childhood cancer for the approximately 1,400 children diagnosed in Canada every year.

Brent smiles as he shares that Connor is cancer-free today, something he hopes for every child fighting cancer. And that is no accident.

To book your ride with Hands Together for a Cure at The 2018 Knox Mountain Climb, click here.

When CANA partnered with Kids Cancer Care to celebrate its 75th anniversary year, they knew their employees would jump in to raise funds and meet their $75,000 fundraising goal. What they didn’t know was that even the children of CANA would get involved.

CANA launched its 75 for 75 fundraising campaign in December 2016 and within months the kids of CANA employees were already rolling up their sleeves to help. They sold firewood, held bake sales and bottle drives. Six-year-old Clayton McLeod even turned his birthday into a fundraising moment, encouraging friends and family to donate to Kids Cancer Care in lieu of birthday gifts through our Give More Birthday program. Clayton raised over $900 for Kids Cancer Care.

Six-year-old Clayton turned his birthday into a fundraiser, asking for donations to Kids Cancer Care in lieu of birthday presents

Three-year-old Zoey Van Staalduine also rose to the occasion. “We sold bundles of firewood, collected bottles and cans and made cookies and brownies for a kids bake sale at CANA,” says Zoey’s mom Christie Simpson of Shepard Development, a CANA Group company. “I wasn’t sure if Zoey would understand what we were doing, because she’s only three, but I was amazed at her level of understanding, interest and compassion. We had a lot of fun doing our Kids Cancer Care projects on weekends as a family. Zoey was quick to remind us on Saturday morning what we had to get done for Kids Cancer Care each weekend! She was our chief baker, firewood bundler and bottle depot unloader.”

Zoey was an enthusiastic fundraiser in CANA’s 75 for 75 fundraising campaign

After a full year of fundraising, CANA employees raised $101,704, far surpassing their $75,000 target. CANA employees held bake sales and yard sales, shaved their heads, ran in the Calgary Marathon and sponsored a table at the Dad and Daughter Gala. Their president Fabrizio Carinelli took part in Kids Cancer Care’s High Hopes Challenge and finished as the top fundraiser.

Fabrizio Carinelli (left) with his kid coach Maeve during the 2017 High Hopes Challenge

But that’s not all. CANA employees and sub-contractors also gave their time, carrying out renovations at Camp Kindle at no cost to the foundation.

Luke Simpson thanks CANA employees and sub-trades for an outstanding year of fundraising and volunteering

“There is no other place on earth quite like Camp Kindle,” says Luke Simpson, Director of Business Development and Marketing at CANA. “When I came to my High Hopes Challenge reunion this year and I got to see the kids at the camp and see the smiles on their faces again, the feeling was magical; I knew right then that this was going to be the charity we worked with for our campaign. I was overwhelmed by the response we got from our clients and sub-trades. Without them none of this would have been possible, so I want to thank all of them for making this campaign the success it was.”

There’s no doubt, that CANA is creating a culture of giving right from the top. When the company launched the fundraising campaign, John Simpson, Chairman of the Board, Owner and CEO of CANA, promised to match his employees’ fundraising efforts dollar for dollar. With Mr. Simpson’s generous matching gift, their total contribution to Kids Cancer Care this year is $203,408.

“We are so grateful to everyone at CANA,” says Christine McIver, Founder and CEO of Kids Cancer Care. “Each summer, we send about 485 kids to camp and these funds will help send 135 those kids to Camp Kindle next summer. Thank you CANA! Happy 75th Anniversary!”    


CANA’s 75th Anniversary BBQ – CANA employees, sub-trades and their families experienced the magic of Camp Kindle firsthand during a company BBQ. Photos by Don Molyneaux Photography.

Spruce Meadows – CANA hosted families from the Kids Cancer Care community at their suite at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament.

CANA Stampede Event – After months of fundraising, Luke Simpson and Dwayne Dubois of CANA shaved their heads for children with cancer at CANA’s annual Stampede party.

High Hopes Challenge  CANA president Fabrizio Marinella took part in Kids Cancer Care’s High Hope Challenge and raised more than $20,000, making him the top fundraiser of the 15 corporate leaders who participated. Photos by Brangwyn Jones Photography.

Taylor was diagnosed with leukemia the year she was supposed to start grade one. She spent two and a half grueling years on treatment. Her story is one of many shared on special dedication boards at registration for Tour for Kids Alberta, a three-day cycling adventure through the Canadian Rockies, where participants fundraise to ride, with all proceeds to Kids Cancer Care.

These special boards each share a different story of a childhood cancer warrior, fondly known by Tour for Kids as ambassadors.

Dedication boards at Tour for Kids registration.

Grant was 15 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Three weeks later he was in remission. However, the cancer would change to acute myeloid leukemia and, later that year, he was diagnosed with skin leukemia. He passed away six months after his first diagnosis.

Liam. Stephen. Briony. Alexander. Dominic.

These are the childhood cancer warriors that are top of mind for the cyclists on the epic cycling tour through the Canadian Rockies. Each day of riding, a special dedication to one of these children affected by cancer.

Erin Rooney and family pay tribute to Dominic at the kick off to the 2014 ride.

It’s always been about the kids for Jeff Rushton, Founder, Chair and Very Passionate Volunteer at the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation. Fourteen years ago, Jeff and some friends started Coast to Coast, the Ontario-based organization behind Tour for Kids. “When we started this foundation, we really wanted one thing: we wanted to make a meaningful difference in the lives of kids and their families going through childhood cancer,” Jeff says.

And that’s exactly what they have done in the 11 years since Jeff and his team first brought Tour for Kids to Alberta. In total, Tour for Kids has raised $2.5 million dollars for Kids Cancer Care. Through various fundraising events and programs, including the Sears National Ride, Inside Ride, and of course, Tour for Kids, they have raised over $35 million dollars for 50 childhood cancer charities and hospitals across Canada.

Their model is low cost. Hard costs are covered by corporate sponsors. That means Coast to Coast has always given 100 per cent of donations raised to the charities they support.

But what makes the event stand out is the people.

Jeff himself is there at the crack of dawn to greet the riders on the first day and then he joins them on the ride, for every single kilometre. At the end of the weekend, Jeff is there to hand out medals and pat each rider on the back.

“The ride takes you to the edge physically and spiritually,” Jeff says, “as you push beyond your own limits and listen to the story of the child you’re riding for.”

Jeff welcomes riders on day one of the 2017 event.

Kids Cancer Care event coordinator Kelsey Morrison adds, “It’s a real team effort. The riders, the organizers, the volunteers. No one is afraid of getting dirty or lending a hand to make the weekend the best experience possible for everyone.”

Kelly Raymond, Kids Cancer Care volunteer assistant agrees, “There is so much comradery. There is a real human, powerful side to the event, almost everyone has a connection to childhood cancer or has been touched by these kids.”

After the ride starts, volunteers start to pack up the dedication boards at registration.

“I need to get a picture of Grant’s dedication board before they load up,” says Mel, the volunteer co-lead, working with Kelly to oversee the 84 volunteers who work the event. Mel, her daughter Ali and husband Jim have volunteered on the ride for six years. She is also Grant’s mom.

Ali (left) and Mel Slalk (right) pose with Breanne Blackburn at the 2016 event.

She’s not alone. Liam’s mom has been a rider two years in a row. Stephen’s dad rides too. Briony’s mom normally rides, but volunteered this year due to an injury. Briony’s sister is the volunteer massage therapist who organizes all the massage therapists and RMTs for the weekend. Alexander’s mom and dad are part of the volunteer crew. And Dominic’s aunt rides every year.

On the second night of the ride, participants stay at Kids Cancer Care’s Camp Kindle where all the kids go each summer thanks to Tour for Kids. First, the counsellors speak of their own experiences as a childhood cancer survivor and sibling. Then, the Inkpen family, a family whose son Foster is currently undergoing treatment, speaks at dinner, reminding everyone in the room where their fundraising dollars go.

“Camp Kindle is our family’s island where we dock,” says Candace Inkpen, standing before a crowd of cyclists. “Knowing that both kids were in amazing hands at Camp Kindle helped me let go. Just a little. And that is because of you all.”

And in that crowd is Taylor. Now 28 and a registered nurse, she rides every year with her dad Dean Wheatley.

Taylor Wheatley (left) at the finish line of Tour for Kids 2015 with a fellow rider.

“Taylor Wheatley is amazing,” says Kelly. “She and her dad ride all weekend and the rest of the Wheatley family volunteers. And then on Monday, after riding hundreds of kilometres all weekend, she’s at SunRise camp, volunteering for a week with our youngest campers.”

That’s what the ride is for so many. Jeff sums it up best, “We give a lot, but we get so much out of it. It’s been an incredible journey…and we’re just beginning.”

Thank you Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation, Jeff, Taylor, Mel, and all the volunteers, sponsors and cyclists who make this event possible. By doing so, you make an invaluable impact in the lives of children affected by cancer and their families



“Until you experience it yourself, you can’t understand what a big difference generosity and support can make in a family’s life.”– Jason Jaskela

You can feel it the moment you walk in – a bright, elfin energy dancing in the Jaskela household. Three young children, brimming with questions and stories and explanations on life.

“My name is Nevaeh,” the oldest one announces. And she spells it out loud: “N-E-V-A-E-H. Nevaeh is heaven spelled backwards.” Then she explains that she has a brother in heaven and that is why she is named Nevaeh.

Although Nevaeh (7) and her younger brothers Weston (5) and Joel (3) have never met their big brother, they know him. His memory is still very much alive in their home.

The Jaskela family at Camp Kindle

As with most bereaved parents, Jason and Trisha Jaskela have come to dread the inevitable question:

“How many children do you have?”

The answer they offer is often the simplest one: “Three.”

This is the point Nevaeh jumps in: “You have four kids. Our big brother Cohyn is in heaven. He’s up in heaven now, but he’s all better now.”

Cohyn’s journey

Cohyn was a happy, easy-going little guy who loved life

Cohyn was just a year old, when he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain tumour called atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumour (AT/RT). That summer in 2007, Cohyn and his parents embarked on the most difficult journey of their lives.

The cancer had spread throughout his entire brain and spinal cord. Cohyn underwent emergency brain surgery, followed by five rounds of chemotherapy and three stem cell transplants. Five months later, Cohyn and his parents were finally able to come home just in time for Christmas.

“He went through all of it like it was a walk in the park,” says Mom Trisha. “For Cohyn, it was all about playing and, of course, flirting with the nurses and high-fiving with the doctors. As long as he could play, everything was great.”

Cohyn was a strong, happy-go-lucky little guy, who loved sports and camping. When he wasn’t at the hospital, his life was all about fast vehicles – motorbikes, boats, golf carts, tricycles.

Cohyn also loved to travel with Mom and Dad. Arizona, Mexico, Fairmont Hot Springs, Vancouver, Niagara Falls, Medicine Hat, Sylvan Lake – he travelled more in two years than some do in a lifetime.

But Cohyn’s biggest love was hockey. He even played it in the hallways of the hospital.

“We never treated him like he was sick,” says Trisha. “A couple of days before his last round of chemo, we took him to a Flames game and sat in the third row. Cohyn wouldn’t even talk to us or look at us for two full periods. His eyes were like saucers.”

Trisha and Jason fondly remember the outpouring of love and support they received during Cohyn’s cancer journey. And, for this, they are grateful.

“Thanks to our amazing support system, Cohyn wasn’t alone for a minute the whole time,” says Trisha. “Friends, family, people from church and work bent over backwards to help. They dropped off meals. Cohyn’s grandparents immediately dropped everything and came to Calgary to help. They even took turns doing overnight shifts at the hospital, so we could get some sleep.”

Kids Cancer Care was one of the organizations that helped Trisha and Jason through this challenging time. Every Wednesday evening, the Jaskelas found comfort in our weekly Pizza Nights at the hospital. During Pizza Nights, they were able to meet other parents facing childhood cancer, exchange stories and share information over warm pizza.

“Until you experience it yourself, you can’t understand what a big difference generosity and support can make in a family’s life,” says Dad Jason.

Cohyn’s legacy

Jason and Nevaeh walk the pink carpet at the Dad and Daughter Gala

Inspired by their son’s memory, the Jaskelas are helping families facing this disease.

Jason and his daughter Nevaeh are regulars at the Dad and Daughter Gala and, in 2016, the family made a significant gift of shares through Raging River Explorations Inc., where Jason works as chief operating officer.

“The current economic situation seemed like the perfect time to make the biggest impact,” says Jason. “Our experience with Cohyn was so challenging and Kids Cancer Care was one of the organizations that was there for us. They are investing wisely in areas that are impacting the lives of children and families today, so it made sense to us to give here.”

Christine McIver of Kids Cancer Care couldn’t agree more: “A gift of this magnitude could not have come at a better time. It is a gift from the heart – from one family to many other families. Their generosity will be felt by many.”

But the gift of shares in 2016 wasn’t the first gift the Jaskelas made to pediatric cancer. Their first gift actually came nine years ago. Moments after Cohyn passed away in 2008, Jason and Trisha donated his tumour and spinal fluid to research.

Slowly, with some scientific arm-twisting, the tumour cells became a cell line and managed to survive in a Petri dish, allowing scientists a glimpse into its inner workings. The cell line ultimately gave researchers an invaluable tool to test for new treatments.

L-R Nevaeh, Joel and Weston overlooking Kindle Pond at Camp Kindle

“The Jaskelas are an exceptional family,” says Dr. Aru Narendran, the Kids Cancer Care-funded researcher, who developed the immortal AT/RT cell line in his University of Calgary laboratory. “They are the true heroes and I hope they know that their kindness continues to work quietly in many laboratories across the world, so maybe one day this cancer will no longer hurt children and families.”

Although Cohyn’s life was brief, his legacy is far-reaching and enduring. It lives in the love and generosity of his family. It survives in the tissue and blood samples his parents donated to science a decade ago. And now, his memory lives on in a quaint little park named Cohyn’s Corner, overlooking Kindle Pond at Camp Kindle. And, perhaps most importantly, Cohyn’s legacy lives in the hope his family continues to offer countless families facing childhood cancer today.

Read more about Cohyn’s cancer journey here, as part of our #familyseries for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“Tundra is the ideal community partner.” – Jill Miller

When you think of tundra, you typically think: “Vast rocky terrain in the frozen hinterlands—cold winds and permafrost.” But there’s another kind of Tundra in North America that’s a whole lot warmer, a lot more fun and definitely a lot more charitable.

Tundra Process Solutions Ltd. joined Kids Cancer Care in 2010 as a community fundraising partner and has given with gusto ever since. Specializing in industrial equipment solutions for companies across western Canada, Tundra manages to build fun and friendship into everything they do. Their work-hard, play-hard attitude has seen the company grow 50 per cent every year for the past decade. They are the seventh fastest growing company in Canada today.

Fortunately for Kids Cancer Care, successful fundraising seems to come as naturally to Tundra as hard work and serious play.

“We’ve always been a community-minded company,” says Iggy Domagalski, partner and chief operating officer at Tundra. “And a few years ago, we were looking for a charity to support. It had to be a local children’s charity that could really engage our staff and give them a chance to make a meaningful contribution. Kids Cancer Care was a perfect choice.”

One of many Tundra fundraising initiatives for Kids Cancer Care

Since then, Tundra has become a major fundraising force for children with cancer. They annually host ugly sweater days, curling bonspiels, indoor rock climbing events and Stampede ho-downs. With matching gifts from the company, Tundra’s 200-strong team has raised $100,000 for Kids Cancer Care.

Tundra has also donated significant amounts of time and equipment to a large heating project at Camp Kindle. Valued at $25,000, the new heating and ventilation systems will ensure our campers stay warm at night and provide a safe and warm indoor space where they can play all year long.

Their philanthropic spirit has not gone unnoticed. Giving at least one per cent of their profits to charity, Tundra is an official Imagine Caring Company.

“Tundra is an ideal community partner,” says Jill Miller, manager of community and signature fundraising events at Kids Cancer Care. “They have literally given across all areas of the foundation. And they’re amazing to work with.”

Tundra even manages to help Kids Cancer Care, while building up Tundra employees. They rented Camp Kindle for their 2015 staff teambuilding retreat, where any profit generated from the rental goes toward our cancer camp programs.

But that’s not all.

Iggy participates in an initiative at the 2015 High Hopes Challenge

Iggy took part in the 2015 High Hopes Challenge, raising over $20,700 doubling his $10,000 fundraising goal, before he and the other challengers headed for Camp Kindle to master the challenge course with their kid coaches.

Iggy is also an active member of the Kids Cancer Care Board of Directors, where he is the volunteer chair of our fundraising committee. As a member of the board, Iggy and the other board members are responsible for the financial oversight and strategic direction of the foundation.

“When we came to Kids Cancer Care in 2010, we were looking for a partnership, something where we could be fully integrated with the charity’s mission,” says Iggy. “We originally chose Kids Cancer Care because they met certain criteria, but we stay because of who they are as an organization. We share the same culture of fun and our staff has really identified with their work and cause.”

Indeed, even children of Tundra staff are getting involved. In 2014, eight-year-old Kaydence asked her friends to donate money to Kids Cancer Care in lieu of birthday gifts. The daughter of Casi Simcoe, an accountant at Tundra, little Kaydence raised $110 to help kids with cancer.

And, of course, Tundra matched every dollar she raised.

Kaydence donates to Kids Cancer Care


“I ask myself sometimes in difficult moments: ‘What would Edyn do? How would Edyn handle this?’ I believe this is what Edyn would do. She would reach out and help others. To remember Edyn is to keep her spirit alive and this head shave in her name for other kids with cancer is the perfect way to do it.”

Those were the words of thirteen-year-old Cole Pederson, before the kickoff event for the Bishop Pinkham Junior High Shave Your Lid for a Kid® event in memory of one of his best friends, Edyn. In the coming weeks, our staff would find themselves both blown away by the fundraising support for Kids Cancer Care and overwhelmed by the sheer number of students whose heads we had to shave. We were given a window of two hours to shave or cut the hair of 100 students, teachers and parents. And we had to keep a gymnasium full of junior high students engaged in the event. The largest school event previous to this had less than half the participants. How were we going to make this happen?

Shave Your Lid for a Kid® show children facing cancer that they are not alone, all while raising vital funds for initiatives like research to change the course of the disease. “Shavees” as we call them come together in a community of support.

Our presenting sponsor of Shave Your Lid for a Kid®, Trico Homes, is very familiar with building communities. Founder Wayne Chiu has always known that his company is more than building the physical structure of a house.

Trico Homes volunteers and fundraisers at the 2nd Annual Community Shave in 2014.

Trico believes in building community. “When you build with us you quickly become part of the Trico family. We keep in touch with our homeowners and try to provide great incentives and opportunities for them to move up within Trico – from condos to semi-estate homes.” says Wanda Palmer, Vice President of Marketing for Trico Homes. “We also want to create housing options to meet the needs of all Calgarians. Trico recently broke ground on a new project that will provide new affordable and accessible living options in an inner city community. Social entrepreneurship is one of Wayne’s passions and this thinking has contributed to shaping the culture of Trico Homes.”

It was this passion that brought Wayne into his first meeting with Kids Cancer Care founder and CEO Christine McIver in 1999. After finding out that the children of two of his business contacts had been diagnosed with cancer, he knew he had to do something.

2010 Ride for a Lifetime group shot.

“Wayne wanted no fanfare. He just wanted to help,” says Christine. “One of his employees suggested doing a motorcycle ride to raise money. In the inaugural year of Ride for a Lifetime, Wayne sponsored every rider for $1000.” A Kids Cancer Care signature event for 10 years and now a third party fundraising initiative, the Ride for a Lifetime has since raised over $2.6 million for pediatric cancer research programs.

For almost two decades, Trico has been heavily involved behind the scenes in Kids Cancer Care’s growth. Trico Homes has been the presenting sponsor of the Shave Your Lid for a Kid® since its inception in 1999. After sponsoring Ride for a Lifetime for a number of years, when Kids Cancer Care began supporting childhood cancer research, Wayne committed to giving $100,000 a year to research. Trico then became the presenting sponsor of the Don, Joanne and the Coach Golf a Kid to Camp tournament. When Kids Cancer Care began exploring the possibility of running Camp Kindle as a social enterprise, the Trico Foundation gave Camp Kindle its first grant.

Volunteers on the Trico Homes hole at the Don, Joanne and the Coach Golf a Kid to Camp tournament

Christine says, “They gave us the courage to add the pillar of research to our organization, they gave us the courage to embark on a new signature event, Ride for a Lifetime, and the courage to start a social enterprise with Camp Kindle rentals. The impact of Trico Homes on Kids Cancer Care far surpasses their financial commitments. You don’t get a community without family and Trico is definitely a part of our family.”

You can always count on family to be there for you at every major milestone and event.

“Our staff really appreciate going out to volunteer at head shaves and the golf tournament,” says Wanda Palmer. “I send an email and almost immediately, the volunteer spots are filled.”

Wanda herself is one of these volunteers. Wanda volunteered to represent Trico Homes at a High Hopes Challenge, raising over $10,500 for Kids Cancer Care, and being paired with a bereaved sibling to experience a week of camp in one day.

Wanda Palmer and her High Hopes Kid Coach, Ali.

Everyone at Trico Homes is given the chance to volunteer and participate. They mandate sending different staff, from all departments and seniority levels, to the Don, Joanne and the Coach Golf a Kid to Camp tournament each year. Everyone is given the chance to experience the Kids Cancer Care community.

So in April 2015, in the Bishop Pinkham gymnasium, when faced with the largest event in the 17-years of Shave Your Lid for a Kid®, there were some familiar faces in the crowd. As they always were, no matter the size of the event, Trico employees were there to help. We put them to work handing out goodies to all the shavees and we even encouraged them to partake in the flash mob!

Trico volunteer takes a photo of Edyn’s brother shaving a teacher’s head at Bishop Pinkham Junior High in 2015.

Trico Homes knows how important volunteering and seeing the return on their social investment has on their employees. Kids Cancer Care is so grateful to Wayne, Wanda and the entire team at Trico Homes for their continued dedication to families affected by childhood cancer!

For most girls, the high school prom is about the dress. What colour? What length? What cut? What style? Not for Gizelle de Guzman. For Gizelle, the occasion of her high school prom was the perfect moment to take a stand and make a statement that very few of us would have the hutzpah or charisma to pull off.

And so, dressed in a vintage-style ball gown, befitting a princess, Gizelle arrived at her prom totally bald.

Her reasons for going bald are perfectly simple.

“I have been affected by cancer in so many ways,” Gizelle explains. “I lost my mom to cancer when I was nine and then my stepmother followed six years later.”

Gizelle also has friends, of all ages, who have a history of cancer.

“Three years ago I met this girl, she was the most beautiful girl ever and she had cancer and her boyfriend broke up with her because of cancer: No hair,” Gizelle says. “It was her graduation and no one was asking her to prom.”

Shortly after, Gizelle had a dream that inspired her to show solidarity for young people with cancer. She’d dreamt about a bald girl in a beautiful grown on prom night. “How would it feel to go to prom without hair?” she wondered.

Gizelle couldn’t shake the memory of that dream and, three years later, she found herself registering her online profile for a Shave Your Lid for a Kid® event scheduled for June 23, 2016—just two days before her high school prom.

“I wanted to be able to say that someone is there for you and that the presence of your hair should not control how you feel walking across that stage,” says Gizelle. “I know I’ll be judged. It’s human nature, but that’s kind of the point.”

Gizelle’s courageous move didn’t only raise a few eyebrows at the prom; it raised a lot of awareness and attention locally and farther afield. Several local media outlets ran stories on Gizelle and people now stop her on the street to talk.

gizelle & brother
Gizelle with her brother Reinier, who flew in from Australia to support his sister at her shave and prom events.

“Since I shaved my head, at least 10 strangers have asked me why my head is shaved, or if I have cancer, or just simply if I’m doing better,” says Gizelle. “It’s crazy how this simple change in my appearance can bring out sympathy in others.” This is precisely the response she was hoping to get. For Gizelle, shaving her head was all about the buzz it would create.

“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” she says. “I needed to do this.”

Originally from the Philippines, Gizelle and her family moved to Cremona, Alberta when she was 12. Fitting in was tough and she became the victim of small-town schoolyard bullies. She started to withdraw and became increasingly isolated and depressed.

Gizelle still struggles with post traumatic stress related to the extensive trauma and loss she’s experienced, but she is determined to get through it and, right now, she’s thriving.

Thanks to your support, Gizelle was able to find friendship and support at SunHaven, a camp program for young people who have a parent with a history of cancer.

“All of my friends, I met at Camp Kindle,” says Gizelle. “I met Melanie, my best friend, my first year at camp and we’ve been through thick and thin together. She’s honestly my sister now and her mom—well, she’s mine too. I have so many friends that I’ve kept in touch with from camp and it’s definitely kept me mentally strong. It’s a huge gigantic support system.”

Gizelle with her friends at Camp Kindle during our SunHaven camp program last summer.

Gizelle’s experiences at SunHaven inspired her to make Kids Cancer Care the recipient of her shave fundraising event.

“The first year, I was very frightened,” says Gizelle, recalling her first SunHaven camp experience. “I had all these negative thoughts that people were going to judge me, that I wouldn’t be accepted at camp, but it only took a couple hours to feel at home and now I look forward to it throughout the year. I’m honestly heartbroken knowing that it was my last year at camp, but I’m going to try and be a counsellor there one day. Camp’s taught me to see the good in people.”

In addition to raising more than $1,700 for Kids Cancer Care, Gizelle is hopeful that she may find some personal resolution through her courageous and compassionate decision to shave her head for prom night.

“Maybe it will provide some closure around my mother,” she says. “I like to think that by doing this, it was like she was there with me on prom night.”

Either way, the 17-year-old singer-songwriter is looking forward to a fresh start this fall at Dalhousie University, when she begins studies in accounting.

Thank you Gizelle! You are an inspiration and role model for so many. Thank you for holding your head high and taking a stand for young people with cancer.

Gizelle’s photo gallery

He may only be five, but Kiptyn Claypool already understands an important life principle. He understands the magic of giving.

Kiptyn was only three when he was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour and the little wooden train set his parents gave him assumed a whole new meaning in his life.

“He played with his train set non-stop during his cancer treatments,” says Kiptyn’s mother Alicia Bjarnason. “I think it helped focus his attention and give him a sense of order and control at a really scary time.”

When Kiptyn decided he’d outgrown his train set, Alicia knew it was a turning point in her son’s life. What she didn’t know is that he had resolved to give it away—and not to just any child. It had to be a child with cancer.

“I want another kid with cancer to have my trains, so they can help him like they helped me when I had cancer,” he told his mother.

It took Mary Phillipo, Kids Cancer Care’s family liaison, about a minute to find the ideal beneficiary of Kiptyn’s generosity—little Colby Kucharuk.

Diagnosed at 20 months with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia, three-year-old Colby also knows cancer firsthand. And, like Kiptyn, he loves trains.

Mary arranged to have the two boys meet at Kids Cancer Care. It was a match made in heaven. The two boys became instant friends, playing with the trains they both love.

“I want another kid with cancer to have my trains, so they can help him like they helped me when I had cancer.” Kiptyn

Photo gallery

Kellan is our miracle child — literally. I was previously married and have a beautiful daughter who was born in 1989 – Jazmine or “first born” as I like to call her. I always wanted Jazmine to have a sibling, but in 1995, I was in a bad car accident and both of my fallopian tubes were damaged. Me and my “then husband” kept trying but unfortunately I had four miscarriages and one tubal baby, before my doctor said, “That’s enough, stop trying. Its putting you through too much stress and disappointment.” I then sought out a fertility specialist and was told that with my tubes, there was no chance for a baby, so I was to deal with never having children again. My marriage fell apart in 2001 because he wanted a full house and I couldn’t give him that. I met my husband Jason in 2005 and told him I was barren, before we even got serious but he said I was more than enough for him. We were married in March 2007. In January 2008, I was very sick in the hospital with costcochronditis and needed medicine for a couple of months. Something that would not go away was the nausea, so on a whim, the doctor said, “Let’s do a pregnancy test.” I found out I was pregnant with my second child. I was 40 and having my second child; what a miracle. Our son came into the world in September 2009 and we named him Kellan, Gaelic for The Mighty Warrior, not knowing at the time how fitting this would be.

L-R Jason (dad), Kellan and Robin (mom) Buck

L-R Jason (dad), Kellan, Jazmine and Robin (mom) on family vacation in Cabo San Lucas

From October through Christmas in 2014, Kellan kept getting fevers, rashes and colds. We were on a family vacation in November in Cabo San Lucas – a Christmas present to all of us. Our daughter, being much older, doesn’t travel with us often, so it was really great to be together and we were really enjoying ourselves. Kellan loves to swim and swam a lot on our vacation, but he was freezing in the water, when it was plus 30! His lips would turn blue. He was also frequently having night terrors.

Kellan and his big sister Jazmine on vacation in Cabo San Lucas

Kellan’s ears had been hurting on the whole flight home, so when we got back to Calgary we took him to a walk-in clinic, as our doctor’s office was closed. They told us, he had an ear infection, probably from too much swimming. Kellan took medicine for a week but still wasn’t any better. About this time, I also started noticing that he had very small dots and bruises on his legs. I took him to the walk-in clinic again. It was a weekend, and again, the doc said, “No worries about these signs. It’s an ear infection.”

Not longer after, Kellan and I were at a birthday party with his friends. I kept looking at him thinking, “He’s off. Something isn’t right.” Mom’s gut was saying, “Let’s check this out further.” I thought, with his white skin and lips, he was diabetic, which to me was very scary. Jason was out of town with friends at a poker tournament, so I picked Kellan up, left the birthday party and went straight to the South Health Campus Hospital. They admitted him into ER pretty quickly, as I explained all of the signs.

The ER doctor happened to be a pediatrician and came right away to see us. She wanted blood work!!! So with Kellan screaming at the top of his lungs, I held him down, while they did several withdraws. He was so upset at me, but I needed to know he was ok.

About an hour later, the ER doctor said, “Do you have family who can come to sit with you?” I said, “Well no, my husband is out of town. My parents live here, but I’m ok with you letting me know what’s going on.” She didn’t really respond and said, “I’ll be back.” Then a social worker came in and introduced herself. My mind thought, “They think I caused the bruising. They are sending a social worker.” All of the movies I’ve seen with a social worker means abuse, so I talked nicely with her and she said, “I’m going to sit with you until your family comes.” I said “I haven’t called my family; do I really need them here?” and she said “Yes.” So I texted Jason that they wanted him there. He was just outside Lethbridge and had carpooled with friends, so he had to figure out a way back into Calgary. I texted his parents and my mom, asking them to come too. I sat there with a very upset little boy and waited.

Finally, everyone arrived and the ER doctor came in and said, “Ok. Here’s what’s going on.” I had Kellan in my arms and he was still crying, so I couldn’t hear ANYTHING being said, but her lips were moving. Then I saw my mom fall into the chair. That’s an image I will never forget. I said, “Will someone hold Kellan, so I can understand what’s going on.” So Jason picked Kellan up and the ER doctor looked at me and said, “Kellan has leukemia.” Without having time to think, she said, “We need him at the children’s hospital ASAP, either by ambulance or you need to leave now.” On our way to ACH we went. My brother went to pick up my daughter, who was living in Canmore, as we didn’t feel she should be driving on the highway after we told her about Kellan.

We were admitted and Kellan was further tested to confirm that he did have leukemia. The results came in and confirmed that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The blood tests all day long were the worst imaginable. I had to literally lie on top of him to keep him still, so they could do it. The next day he started on chemotherapy.

Being deaf hugely compounded everything for Jason and I. The hospital does not have interpreters, so every time the doctors and nurses would come and talk to us, we had no clue what they were saying.

After being admitted, Kellan immediately turned for the worst, getting pneumonia and RSV and another infection, so he was put in isolation, which meant EVERYone coming into the room had on a mask. Now, 80 per cent of my “hearing” or understanding is through lip reading, so with the masks that was taken away.

They would ask us to go into the doctors’ rounds (meetings) and we said there is no point, we can’t hear you. Jazmine, who was living in Canmore, would come into Calgary and go to all the meetings, take notes and record the conversation. Then she would transcribe all the discussions, so we could read them. We weren’t able to learn about what was happening until two days later: a day for her to go to the meetings, then write them out and travel back and forth from Canmore. We never knew what was going on at any time.

Jason and I were sitting in the waiting room, while Kellan was in surgery for his chemo port and a doctor comes out says, “Are you the deaf parents?” Then he tells us, “Just use the cream and give Tylenol and he can go home today.” Jason and I look at each other, puzzled, and asked, “What?” The doctor asked us again if we are the deaf couple – “YES!” “Ok, well the circumcision went great. Just use the cream for his penis every day.” We just about fell over with worry over what they had done. Apparently there was another deaf couple in the waiting room sitting right behind us. Oh how we wished that was the surgery Kellan was in for that day.

We had to book our own interpreter for all meetings, but we needed at least two or three days’ notice, which was impossible with the hospital schedules. So meeting changes would happen and we would lose our interpreter, who wasn’t able align with new times. Last minute, we would ask a hearing friend to come and help us. Fortunately he could sign.

We did have one nurse, who wasn’t on our shift often, but she knew sign language. You can imagine how much that calmed us. Whenever something was going on, she would sit on the bed with us and sign the information! We asked for her often, but her shift didn’t always line up and we only able to get her twice.

One morning at 2:00 am, I was asleep on the couch in the room and all of a sudden a bunch of doctors with masks rushed in. They said something to me and then wheeled Kellan’s whole bed out. I was barely awake and had no clue what they said. Then a nurse came in after and I said, “Please help me out.” She explained that Kellan was having troubles with his heart and breathing and they were taking him to ICU ASAP. I ran as fast as I could to follow them. 2:00 am!

Kellan in ICU

In ICU, they put a full oxygen mask on Kellan and the doctors were madly trying to find the right recipe of antibiotics to best ensure he made it through the weekend. Kellan fought the mask and the doctor said, “You need it to stay alive.” He was strapped down. A mother’s worst nightmare – chemo, oxygen mask, feeding tubes and restrained arms. After a couple of days in ICU, they were ready to take off the mask but Kellan wouldn’t let them. To him, that’s what was keeping him breathing and alive. Slowly they turned it off, and even disconnected it, but he still kept in on his face. In ICU they also had his arms in straps as he would freak out easily but now back in unit 1 his arms are free and the first thing he does is curl up in a ball in fetal position and go to sleep. The ICU doctor tells me, “He’s a stubborn little guy, but you know what? That’s what will pull him through all of this.”

Every time the door opens to Kellan’s room, he panics, not knowing who is coming through to do what to him. The first time he saw a lab tech come into the room he started crying as usual and they said, “Watch this Kellan. No needles at all,” and they drew blood from the port. He started laughing, a sound I had so longed to hear! Kellan was starting to know by the colour of their coats if they were A) just going to look at it B) going to take blood C) coming to clean the garbage out, and he would react accordingly. He loved the blue uniforms — garbage only!

We were released for the weekend, just a trial period. Kellan was so excited, but my Momma heart was terrified. I was now in complete charge of his care. What if I made mistakes? I must have gone over procedures and medication with the head nurse 10 times. We even made a chemo chart to track all of his meds and used stickers to mark when we had completed each dose. We got home and Kellan tried to walk to the living room and he fell right away and said “Mom my legs don’t work anymore,” and started to cry. I then joined him on the floor, doing the same.

In March, Kellan started a new medication, which seems to have kicked in fast. Yesterday, he was complaining already of his knees giving out while walking and it was the first time since leaving the hospital that he was sick. So we are now riding a wave of chemo, puking, pain, crying, steroid rages and snuggles. Of course my little man is as brave as ever and usually just yells, “Mommy! I’m going to get sick!” and grabs a tray from our kitchen nurses’ station, gets sick in it, turns to me and says, “You better wipe down the chair too as I missed a bit.” Then he carries on playing. No tears (except from me) and on he goes, playing with his Lego! He’s also learned to use his sense of humour to calm me down. One day he’s yelling, “Mommy! Come quick! I’m getting sick!” so I ran into his room and he says, “My tray is full,”  and pretends to drop it on me. As I jumped back, I look at the floor covered in Skittles. He’s got my sense of humour.

Kellan and faithful lab Buddy

The road is long but Kellan keeps bouncing back. On June 28, after his third day in a row of chemo, he’s throwing up and experiencing pain from his port. His legs are weak and his stomach is in knots. With a fresh dose of chemo in him, he goes outside and hits some baseballs!! UNBELIEVABLE, this kid. Everyone says how strong we are but Kellan is the strongest little fighter I will ever know. On one of the worst days yet at the hospital (port access, spinal tap, 3 types of chemo, 4 hours of rapid hydration and 11 hours in total at the hospital) after being released, Kellan goes to the driving range to hit some balls and I go home in a shirt bought from the hospital gift shop, as I’d caught all that “nausea” on me!

The chemo is also doing its best to give us the extremes in his personality. Kellan can be laughing and playing with you one minute, then minutes later, he’s tucked under my legs scared of everything. Talking with his child life specialist, psychologist and doctor, I am reassured that this will be the new normal, while he is on chemo. It’s not him or his personality. It’s the medicine reacting with the balances in his body and brain. Steroids are the worst for this too. One day full of Dexamethasone, he gets upset leaving a restauran and runs straight into the parking lot. Kellan, never more than 3 inches from my side, bolts onto the road. I yell to him to get on the side walk as there are cars coming and he says, “It doesn’t matter, I’ve got cancer and going to die anyway, let them hit me.” You can imagine the dagger through the heart as this came out of my six-year-old’s mouth. My heart breaks whenever I think of all the emotions and feelings my little guy is going through when all he should have on his mind is his friends, his games and his dog.

Kellan’s cancer has changed so much. This was our miracle child. Our everything. So many things we wanted to do and share together. Now every ounce of life and energy we have goes into this fight to keep him alive. We were very active and healthy people before diagnosis and then found we weren’t even looking after ourselves anymore. We weren’t getting real sleep and even our marital relationship had suffered. We are only partners, united in the fight, trying to keep everything together. We had forgotten our own story. Being deaf, we also can’t hear if Kellan is getting sick in the middle of the night, or crying in pain, etc., so one of us always sleeps with him in his room – for almost 3 years now!

Everyone in the Buck family is superhero

Sleep was not something we had for the first whole year of this journey. Kellan had extreme separation anxiety and anxiety of people. Even people he knew and loved could not be in the same room alone with him or he would freak out. So, again, everywhere we went, one of us always had to be with Kellan, which meant no breaks. The only respite we got was with his grandparents, who he was comfortable with.

Both of us took a couple of months off work at first but eventually we had to get back to work. My work allowed me to move my office from the corporate building to our home, so I could be there with Kellan. My work was incredible. Giving me this flexibility was huge. Jason returned to his normal hours but took time off for Kellan’s clinic appointments.

We used to be much more spontaneous; now we have to think everything out: Where we are going? How many people are there? Will Kellan freak out or be comfortable? How long will we be away from home? What is the chemo schedule? You see, he can’t eat 2 hours before his daily chemo and one hour after, therefore we have to plan and time all meals exactly and watch to make sure he doesn’t sneak in even a juice or cracker during this 3-hour fast  period – EVERY day. Then on Thursdays he has 18 pills of chemo! We can’t travel anymore, which was one of our favourite things too, especially travelling to see family and to see Kellan’s grandparents in Palm Springs yearly. We stay within one hour of ACH, as the one time we attempted to travel, Kellan got fevers and very sick within a day, so we don’t chance it anymore.

The biggest shock for us was people. Today, our circle of trust is much smaller. One of the hardest things to go through on this entire road is the feeling of isolation and loneliness. But we made new friends, mostly other cancer parents we met at Kids Cancer Care events and camp. These people are our extended family and get us through a lot of rough times as we do for them.

Jazmine is a good big sister to Kellan

Our daughter Jazmine made us very proud. She would come out from Canmore to Calgary to help out with all meetings, etc. She was my rock when I was breaking down in Kellan’s hospital room, crying, my head on her lap, sobbing. Another great turn was that Jazmine has decided to go into nursing and is now going into her third year. She’s on the dean’s list with amazing marks! She moved back to Calgary, so she could be with Kellan more often, but with school, her head is rarely out of the books. When they get together, it’s an amazing bond. You watch with your heart full.

Our first encounter with Kids Cancer Care was in the spring of 2014 for Family Camp at Camp Kindle. We were only 4 months into treatment. Almost all the families were on maintenance or off treatment, so we were pretty new to this. They all opened their arms up wide and brought us in. The reality is, we had not been apart from Kellan since January 11, 2014, not one hour, and now he was going off with a Kids Cancer Care volunteer, who apparently was going to play and then put him to bed. Jason and I looked at each other and said, “Yeah, right.” With a wave and a smile, he said, “Bye Mom,” and walked away with volunteer Brad. Now this was the first time meeting the cancer parents and Kids Cancer Care for us too. Camping is one of Kellan’s favourite things, and without Camp Kindle he wouldn’t be able to do it. They also have Unit 1 nurses that he knows on-site at Camp Kindle, which helped Mom’s anxiety a lot. The serenity of the camp can’t be put into words. I’m a Pisces and sitting by the pond, watching the ripples, is cheap therapy.

Families enjoy the quiet serenity of Kindle Pond

Getting families out in nature at Camp Kindle where you feel safe, because there are nurses on-hand and where you feel welcome and comfortable, as your kids are going through the same thing, is huge. It feels like you have another family that has your back and you can enjoy things in life, with the right people, without feeling guilt.

Kellan loves Kindle Pond

Kellan tried SunRise day camp twice, but wouldn’t let me leave him alone there. But he’s been to Family Camp with us three times. It’s great for him to get away from the hospital and house. He loves the bunk beds and the freedom to run around the grounds. Kellan’s a nature kid, so he loves the pond and fields. He is happy there.

Kellan is a mighty warrior and a little tiger

At  SunRise day camp the first time, Kellan didn’t know what to expect. He was hesitant as they were so many kids. I told him, “It’s ok, these kids are just like you and they don’t care how little hair you have, or that you are sick.” He found a friend right away, former Calgary Flames Curtis Glencross. He just grabbed his hand and said, “Help me make these crafts.” I will never forget one mom looking at me, knowing I was worried as I tried to get Kellan to join the group. She said, “Its ok. I stayed in the parking lot and read books all week our first year. You don’t need to leave if you don’t want to.” So the parking lot is where I stayed. J When Kellan came out with a tiger painted on his face, I knew he was ok. He’s never let anyone paint his face before and then I see this ferocious TIGER coming at me.

Kellan and former Calgary Flames player Curtis Glencross

Jason and I also participate in the Dragon Boat Races every summer with other cancer parents we’ve met through Kids Cancer Care. Rowing and training together with other cancer parents for two solid months each summer builds an incredibly strong bond between us. We’ve also been to Mother’ Day Brunch, kids’ cooking classes, parents’ cooking classes, Family Ski Day and, this past summer, I volunteered for the Tour for Kids Alberta, which was spectacular.

Jason and Robin participate in the annual Dragon Boat Races through our Outreach Parent Program

So you wonder what Kids Cancer Care does for a family. In short, it gives them their life back. I have never known such isolation as I have with this disease. It’s really like living on an island with no boat. Kids Cancer Care gives us the boat-ride back in. They have given us another family, one that understands what we are going through and a support system when we are tired. It gives us a chance to give back too through fundraising events like Tour for Kids Alberta. We honestly care about everyone affected by childhood cancer, so we do many charity events to raise money. I need to help other families in our situation if I can.

Kids Cancer Care is making a huge difference in the quality of life for kids and families in the world of pediatric cancer. It’s too easy to be forgotten and left on the side to deal with the depression, the overwhelming hospital appointments, the loss of close friendships and how to cope with all of it without losing yourself.

img_7766Kellan is now in his cycle 9 of his 12-cycle maintenance phase. He just started grade two. He is learning to be a little more independent and less anxious. Last year, it took us 2 weeks for Kellan to adjust to being at school without me. This year it took 20 mins. When on steroids, his moods are unpredictable, but when he is off them, he’s pretty much a normal stubborn six-year-old. He’s not a big eater, so he needs to eat more to gain weight, but he is growing in height a lot. He is very grateful for his family and friends and talks constantly about them — especially his girls. If anyone knows Kellan, they know he has a following of pretty special girls who are always at his side. He still hates the medicines daily, but he opens up his mouth on the count of 10 every time, without fail. We still have to watch for fever, germs, colds, coughs, etc. and pull him out of school whenever his counts drop or if kids in class are sick.

He is swimming again but at private pool. The Deerfoot Inn graciously lets him swim at their pool whenever he wants to. They let us know when they have less occupancy and when there are little to no kids in the pool. They also hosted his last two birthday parties with private pool and suite for the meals, so he didn’t have to be in the public restaurant. They make a little boy very happy, as swimming is his favourite thing, and a Mom very happy, as this helps shelter him a bit from public germs. He also played baseball last spring and summer.

Based on our schedule, maintenance phase will be done March 20, 2017 – which is also my birthday!!! There is a mile-long list of potential side effects, but we won’t know until we see them. For now, he is showing the leg and knee pain and skin rashes from major eczema. His energy is depleted, but we hope all of the other possible side effects stay at bay. Hearing loss, vision, cognitive issues, bone issues, kidney issues….they can stay away. We are all very excited for this milestone to come, but I’m honestly terrified too, thinking about taking away the safety net of chemo to keep those cells away. I’ll have to learn how to live “normally” again.

It amazes me how strong a kid can be! What a warrior. He wakes up, pukes, wipes his mouth and then goes to school like nothing happened. I know how much I loved him before this experience, but I didn’t know that love would keep us fighting the fight with so much power. It definitely knocks us out some days and we want to forget all about it, but other days, we are proud of what we have accomplished together.

I try not to show weakness. I keep myself focused on Kellan, so I don’t become a ball of tears. I save the tears for when I’m alone. We’ve had to be adaptable; we have to change things on the fly a lot. We may be leaving for a birthday party and then get a text that someone has a cold, and we have to change our plans and not go. This affects Kellan emotionally, as he looks forward to seeing his friends and then has to turn around and go home.

When I ask Kellan what he wants to be when he grows, his 100% honest answer is, “Just me Mom. I wanna’ just be Kellan, wherever that leads me” and then he adds, “Happy.”

Bless his heart.

I’d like to leave you with a poem that a tired, an insomniac mom once wrote – ME. I have found that it actually connected me to a lot of cancer mom’s going through this same thing.


Can you dream a little dream tonight? 

Can you dream a little dream tonight?

One that when you finally open your eyes

Your reality matches your thoughts

Where time has healed your painfully open wounds

And you are grateful they are behind you

Where you are able to laugh and smile without guilt

And know you are ok to breathe again

Where you hear the laughter of your child

And not worry, will it soon disappear?

Where your thoughts are on the present

Your nightmares are in the past

Where you are not afraid to see the future

And shine in all of its glory

Where you can joyfully skip down a path

Knowing it leads back to one another

Where the heat of the sun bounces off your face

And you know your roots will flourish

Where time does not need to be sped up

But rather enjoyed minute by minute

Where your child looks at you,

Not in fear of what comes next

But in awe of the beauty and strength with what he was raised

Dare I close my eyes and drift off

Will I awaken trembling in fear?

And knowing this was all but a dream

Why can’t it all be true

It’s so easy to imagine

Yet so hard to achieve

Please let me dream a little dream tonight

That’s alas, not a dream after all


—Robin Buck, Kellan’s mom

Thank you to our generous fundraising partners who make our programs and services possible