Amanda’s story

Too cool for school: Amanda as a toddler

When I was two and half years old, I was busy playing dress up with her older sister Allison. I squeezed into a shirt that was way too small. When my mother finally rolled it off my arms and head, she noticed it had left little dark spots. Mom immediately booked an appointment with the pediatrician, thinking I should be eating more of those vegetables I hated and still hate today.

The appointment was scheduled for Friday afternoon, March 30, 2007 at 4:45 pm. By 5:30 pm that same day, I had my first blood draw. In less than 24 hours I was admitted to our local children’s hospital in Spokane for further testing. Five days later, they received the results. I was diagnosed with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) and AML (acute myeloid leukemia), both are types of blood cancers. Those little dark spots?  Petechiae. The first of many visible signs that I had cancer.

Amanda at the hospital

I had only one treatment option — a bone marrow transplant. We didn’t have to look far for a donor as my four-year-old sister Allison was a six out of six match. My treatment regime included total body irradiation. In my opinion, this is similar to having your entire body placed in a microwave oven. As I was too small for the machine, I was placed on a gurney against the wall with a radiation beam concentrated on her entire body. Combined with high doses of chemotherapy, this would kill all the cancer cells and all the healthy cells in my body.

I became very sick from the treatment. I had painful blisters in her mouth and throughout my GI tract, making eating nearly impossible. My skin was burnt bright red and my gorgeous blonde hair began to fall out in chunks. I was receiving blood transfusions daily and platelets every three days. I spent most of my days in isolation as her immune system was depleted, putting me at risk if I was exposed to something. The purpose of the protocol was to take my immune system to ground zero, so my body was less likely to reject the donor cells. I spent the next five months in a hospital room.

Amanda with her sister

Once I was cleared to go home, I was excited to see my bedroom, toys, and dogs. I was scheduled to start pre-school in the fall of 2008. That was all put on hold when I relapsed.  I would spend my fourth birthday in the hospital, waiting for another bone marrow transplant. This hospital stay was much longer. I had more complications and a thirty per cent chance of survival.

My second transplant would be in Calgary at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with a life-saving donation of a stranger’s cord blood. At this time, my family was introduced to Kids Cancer Care. My sisters Allison and Annaka were able to attend Kids Cancer Care programs as siblings, but I was too sick. One of the first programs I attended was the Halloween Howler. It was hosted in the gym at the hospital, but I was in isolation, so the volunteers, dressed in their costumes, came to my hospital room, and waved through the window. The following summer, I attended SunRise, a weeklong day camp that included one night at the big camp. I only remember that night by a picture of myself standing on the dance floor with my blanket, watching the big kids dance.

More sister time at the hospital

I may look like an ordinary kid, but my 4′ 11″ stature tells another story. I had cataracts at age five and have artificial lenses. They will need to be replaced in a couple of years once I reach adulthood. The high-dose chemotherapy and total body irradiation damaged the development of my teeth, so I will need dental impants. Before I am able to have dental implants, I will need reconstructive jaw surgery, which involves taking a bone graft from my hip. I have 70 per cent lung capacity and my bones are extremely brittle. The list of my long-term side effects is endless. Some are known, while others are yet to be discovered. I will see specialists multiple times a year for the rest of my life.

Through the years I have participated in many Kids Cancer Care programs and events. I have taken part in the High Hopes Challenge at Camp Kindle, helping to raise much-needed funds for kids like me. I participate in the PEER exercise program, which helps reduce long-term side effects and makes movement fun.

Amanda with her blanket at camp

I am also in the Teen Leadership Program, known as TLP. The TLP program helps teens build leadership skills while having opportunities to give back. One of my first TLP events was volunteering at Halloween Howler, the very same event I had experienced through my hospital window when I was four. I had come full circle.

All of these programs would not be possible without the support of generous donors. Thank you for your continued support.

~ Amanda

What’s better than a 20-hour slow-smoked brisket slider on a barley bun? A 20-hour slow-smoked brisket slider paired with the perfect lager. Nothing beats this combo — except for more ribs and sliders paired with more craft beer. Throw in sunshine and some live indie blues and you have the makings of a perfect summer day. This is Barley & Smoke: Grillin’ for a Cure, a fundraising event for children with cancer that brought together Calgary’s top 10 chefs and brew masters for the taste event of the year.

Local businessman Carlos Soares is the man behind the vision for Barley & Smoke. He recalls the time he was diagnosed with cancer as a young man, walking into the cancer clinic with his father — his dad’s arm around his shoulder. Now Carlos is the father and he finds it difficult to even imagine a similar scenario with one of his kids. It’s just too painful too entertain. That’s why Carlos decided to organize Barley & Smoke with 100 per cent of proceeds going to Kids Cancer Care.

Carlos Soares, the man behind the vision for Barley & Smoke, samples one of many delicious BBQ ribs and slider pairings.

“Helping kids battle cancer is very close to my heart,” says Carlos Soares, founder and president of Divine Flooring and a Platinum sponsor for Barley & Smoke. “I suffered from advanced cancer as a young adult and know first-hand the struggle and the challenges. I was able to overcome it and I don’t want any child to have to go through what I endured.” 

Barley & Smoke was his answer.

For the cost of a $50 ticket, guests were free to sample 10 unique BBQ and beer pairings. A panel of celebrity judges selected the winners. While all the BBQ fare and boutique beer were more than delicious, the contest came down to four winners:

  1. Banded Peak Brewing won Best Beer with their Guvamorphology Gose sour beer;
  2. Prairie Dog Brewing won Best Ribs for their St Louis-style pork ribs;
  3. Jane Bond BBQ took the Best Slider award for their 20-hour slow-smoked brisket slider on a Village Brewery barley bun; and
  4. The Best Team award went to Cold Garden and Jane Bond BBQ for their pairing of East Calgary Lager with 20-hour smoked brisket slider.
One of 10 delicious slider and craft beer pairings at Barley & Smoke.

On display at the event, were five boutique reading forts, designed and built by individuals from the home building industry. This is where the guests could cast their votes. The forts were named after zodiac signs to evoke a starry night at Camp Kindle in the foothills. The crowd favourite was the Pisces Fort by LeAnne Bunnell Interiors and Unique Projects, who took the Best Fort prize.

Fort Pisces took first prize for best fort. It is one of five boutique reading forts that were designed and built by individuals in the home-building industry and donated to Camp Kindle.

With 550 guests in attendance and generous sponsorships from the Calgary restaurant, craft beer, home building, financial and legal industries, Barley & Smoke raised $55,700 for Kids Cancer Care. Factor in the extra $60,000 donated in labour and material costs for the reading forts and the total value tops $115,700.

Guests enjoying the BBQ fare.

“The generosity of spirit displayed by these sponsors feels like a miracle right now during this economic downturn,” says Christine McIver, founder and chief executive officer of Kids Cancer Care. “Times have been tough for everyone in this city and the way these industry leaders have pulled together to make this event happen exudes that can-do attitude that Calgary is famous for. It’s so refreshing right now and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We deeply appreciate it.”

Funds raised at Barley & Smoke will go to Kids Cancer Care’s programs designed to help families during their childhood cancer journey.

On behalf of the children and families we serve, Kids Cancer Care extends a heartfelt thanks to the following companies that gave their time, talents and treasure to make the first annual Barley & Smoke a success.

BBQ Grill
and Crab
Banded Peak
Cluck ‘n
Calgary Harley- Davidson
Born Colorado
Jane Bond
Cabin Brewing
Divine Flooring
Cold Garden
Barbecue &
Legend 7
Brewing Co
Shaw Industries
Group Inc.
The Establishment Brewing Co. Legend 7
TD Canada Trust
Barbeque &
Ames Tile & StoneLtd.
Trolley 5 Trolley 5 Broadview Homes
Prairie Dog
Prairie Dog Brewing Enterprise Fleet
    Rogers Insurance
    Simple Spaces/
Home Solutions
    Tierra Sol
    Excel Homes
Wolf & Cove
    Masuch Law

Barley & Smoke tickets go on sale in the spring.

View the Barley & Smoke video here.

“It has been amazing to be recognized nationally for this research but more important, is knowing that the research may actually have potential in the real world.” ~ Colette Benko

Colette Benko isn’t your average 15-year-old. Not because she’s already conquered cancer once, but because of her scientific mind and insatiable curiosity. If Colette has it her way, she’ll be conquering cancer the rest of her life, but this time, it will be from the inside of a research lab.

Thanks to you, Colette was able to start feeding her curiosity while working as a summer research student in Dr. Aru Narendran’s laboratory at the University of Calgary. But this wasn’t the first time Colette had been in a research lab.

Colette Benko is enjoying a productive mentorship with University of Calgary researcher Dr. Aru Narendran.

For the past two years, Colette has been enjoying a rewarding and successful mentorship with Dr. Narendran, a pediatric oncologist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and an Experimental and Applied Therapeutics (ExpAT) researcher in the Childhood Cancer Research Program at the University of Calgary.

Colette first met Dr. Narendran at the Alberta Children’s Hospital when she was being treated for synovial sarcoma, a cancer of the joints and soft tissue.

“I’ve always been a science nerd, but I had never done a medical science research project,” says Colette. “When Dr. Narendran found out that I love science so much, he agreed to mentor me. He’s been a great mentor. He’s so kind and patient and he’s so committed.”

“When Colette talked to me about wanting to do research in our laboratory I was impressed by her extraordinary self-assurance, energy and keenness,” says Dr. Narendran. “She reminded me of that Ivern Ball quote, ‘Knowledge is power, but enthusiasm pulls the switch.’”

The outcome of that enthusiasm has been two award-winning research projects for Colette.

Last spring, she won a silver medal for excellence in the 2016 Canada-Wide Youth Science Fair and a $2,000 scholarship for her research into a potential new therapy for neuroblastoma, a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system often found in infants and young children. In 2014, her research into an extremely rare and aggressive brain cancer in infants called ATRT won gold in the Calgary Youth Science Fair.

“It’s so incredible to work in a lab,” she says. “To actually experience and see results, not just read about it, is so satisfying.”

Colette is especially excited about the results of the neuroblastoma research, because it may actually have practical application in the world of pediatric cancer one day.

“It has been amazing to be recognized nationally for this research, but more important, is knowing that the research may actually have potential in the real world,” Colette says.

Working with students in Dr. Narendran’s lab, Colette was studying a unique new drug against three types of neuroblastoma and found that it inhibited growth in all three by stopping the action of a protein called EZH2, which is involved in blocking tumour suppressor genes.

“Normally, our cells rely on a group of molecules called tumour suppressor genes, which constantly act to prevent malignant changes in cells, by causing them to self-destruct,” she says. “But some tumour cells overproduce a protein that actually turns off tumour suppressor molecules, so the cancer cells continue to grow. The drugs we’re studying, known as the EZH2 inhibitors, aim to block this abnormal mechanism in neuroblastoma cells.”

When Colette presented her findings at the 2016 Canada-Wide Youth Science Fair, researchers investigating similar ideas were excited to see her data, as this drug has also shown effectiveness against pediatric brain tumours.

Still in the early stages, Colette’s findings seem to suggest that the drug may not only be inhibiting cancer growth; they may actually be inducing cellular death in the neuroblastoma cells. Another promising attribute of the drug is it doesn’t seem to attack regular cells, which could mean fewer side-effects for patients.

Working as a summer research student in Dr. Narendran’s lab this year, Colette was able learn more about the necessary processes involved in conducting cancer research, while also developing her understanding of the biology of various pediatric cancers.

Colette also continued generating data on her neuroblastoma project, testing whether the drugs are actually capable of inducing death in neuroblastoma cells and assessing what effect, if any, they may have on non-cancerous cells.

After graduating from high school, Colette plans to take her quest for a cure even further. She plans to pursue a Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of Calgary and follow that with post-graduate work in pediatric cancer research.

Thank you for making our summer student research program possible. While providing scientists with much-needed help in the lab, the program helps ensure that promising young research talent is nurtured for tomorrow.

Drs. Vanessa Meier-Stephenson(L) and Dr. Aru Narendran (R) have been mentoring Colette Benko, a summer research student, in their University of Calgary laboratory.

On September 15, 2016, the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators Consortium (POETIC) and CorMedix Inc., announced a powerful new partnership in the fight against childhood cancer. With the new partnership agreement, POETIC and CorMedix will work together to develop a promising drug called CRMD-005 as a potential treatment for rare children’s tumours, including neuroblastoma and osteosarcoma.

small-orange-research-tube-32355073CRMD-005 is a proprietary form of Taurolidine, an anti-microbial currently used to prevent infections in catheters. A safe product that causes very few side-effects, Taurolidine is also being studied as a treatment for cancer.

The new research effort will begin with pre-clinical studies to demonstrating its role in immunotherapy on pediatric cancer models in the laboratory. Laboratory studies show that Taurolidine is capable of inhibiting the growth of cancer cells at concentrations of 100 times lower that that which is needed for the drug’s antibiotic activity, suggesting the drug’s high tolerability (the degree to which overt adverse effects of a drug can be tolerated by a patient).

Working with POETIC physicians and scientists, Dr. Aru Narendran will lead the pre-clinical efforts, which will involve further defining Taurolidine’s potential role in treating pediatric cancers, especially in relapsed and drug-resistant cancers. It will also involve identifying the best drugs to combine with Taurolidine to plan for and test in future clinical trials.

Dr. Aru Narendran will lead the pre-clinical research effort to better understand the effect of Taurolidine on pediatric cancer.

“Our goals are to better elucidate Taurolidine’s mechanism effects and leverage its history of safety to maximize its anti-neoplastic potential in an intelligent and efficient manner,” said Dr. Narendran, a Kids Cancer Care-funded researcher in the Experimental and Applied Therapeutics Research effort at the Children’s Cancer Research Program at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and University of Calgary.

The program will involve collaboration with several National Cancer Institute centers that are part of the POETIC group, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), Weill Cornell Medical Center, Alberta Children’s Hospital, and other top tier cancer centers of excellence.

To read more about this research effort, visit CorMedix Inc.

POETIC is a network of pediatric oncologists and researchers from 10 top-tier academic medical research centers, who are collaborating across institutions to bring promising new therapies into phase one and phase two clinical trials for children with cancer.

CorMedix is a bio-pharmaceutical company that develops and brings to market therapeutic agents to prevent and treat infectious and inflammatory disease.

POETIC recognizes Kids Cancer Care with Partner of Distinction Award

POETIC recently recognized Kids Cancer Care’s contribution to childhood cancer research with a prestigious POETIC Partner of Distinction Award. The award recognizes our ongoing support of Dr. Aru Narendran and his research team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the University of Calgary. Dr. Narendran is an Experimental and Applied Therapeutics researcher at the Childhood Cancer Research Program. The only Canadian member of POETIC, Dr. Narendran is currently the lead investigator in three phase one POETIC clinical trials.







“When Erik relapsed three years ago with AML, a bone marrow transplant was his only hope for survival. Brent was a perfect match and the stem cells they extracted from his bone marrow saved Erik’s life. We are so filled with gratitude for Brent and his kind, generous heart. We are thrilled to finally find him; it’s like our families have been matched now.” ~ Carol Gracia

Although Paul and Carol have never met Brent Lewelling before, the young man from Beaumont, Texas saved their son Erik’s life in 2012 when he was battling acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a high-risk cancer of the blood not often found in children.

“It was critical that we find a donor,” says Erik’s father Paul Gracia. “If we hadn’t found the perfect match, Erik wouldn’t have survived.”

A 20-year-old college student at the time, Brent was Erik’s perfect match. He underwent surgery to have stem cells harvested from his bone marrow to donate to Erik.

“They told me there was a little boy who needed my stem cells and asked me if I was still interested in donating,” said the now 23-year-old Lewelling, who is a father himself today. “I immediately felt this pull and felt like I needed and wanted to do this, so of course, I said, ‘Yes! When do you need me?’”

erikOriginally diagnosed with AML when he was two years old, Erik underwent months of intense chemotherapy before going into remission. He enjoyed two cancer-free years and just as the Gracias were beginning to feel that he was out of harm’s way, he relapsed. This time, his only hope for survival was a stem cell transplant, which Brent made possible.

The bone marrow transplant was a life-saving, game-changer for Erik, who has been healthy ever since.

“When the agency called to say the boy’s family wanted to make contact, they said it may take over six months to actually hear from them; the Gracias called two days later,” Brent laughs. “It was so great to get that call. My mother has never stopped asking if I’d heard from that little boy and his family. It is such a blessing and joy to know that Erik is so strong and healthy today. Mom says I’ve always had such a strong immune system, because I never get sick; now Erik has my immunity too.”

Apparently, Brent Lewelling was an ideal donor. Studies show that donations from healthy young men like Brent, between the ages of 17 and 35, lead to improved overall survival in patients and lower rates of graft versus host disease (GvHD) for patients, so they are more likely to be chosen to donate by transplant physicians. GvHD is a condition where donor-derived blood cells see the patient’s body as foreign and so triggers an immune response, leading to serious complications.

Erik was fortunate to experience no complications or rejection issues after the transplant and, today, he is a healthy, active nine-year-old boy who loves sports. He and Brent experienced an instant bond and, during the five-day visit last July, the Gracia and Lewelling families enjoyed site-seeing tours around the province, including a trip to Banff and a backstage tour of the Grandstand Show at the Calgary Stampede. Erik was glued to Brent’s side during the entire visit. He calls Brent Superman Bone Marrow.

“Brent has shown me how to make a difference in the lives of others,” says Erik. “He’s also shown me how to give love to others who need it. Brent is part of our family now.”

“It is wonderful to see Erik and his family bonding with Brent and his family,” says Dr. Faisal Khan, an associate professor in the departments of pediatrics, and pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine investigating donor matching systems to improve outcomes for patients. “But the foundation of this bonding was actually laid in 2012, when Erik welcomed Brent’s stem cells into his body and Brent’s stem cells helped Erik to get rid of the unwanted cancer cells. This strong bond between the two of them, that we in the outside world are seeing today, has in fact, existed inside Erik’s body for the past three years. This fact itself speaks to the importance of donor matching.”

“Reunions like this are rare and they inspire us to continue to build a stem cell registry that reflects the needs of patients in Canada and all over the world,” says Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer, Canadian Blood Services. “This reunion is a testament to the collaborative relationships that exist with our international partners and with our Canadian transplant and research communities to ultimately improve patient outcomes.”

To that end, Canadian Blood Services focuses on recruiting young men between the ages of 17 and 35 to their adult stem cell registry and expectant mothers through the Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank.

To register with Canadian Blood Services’ One Match Stem Cell and Marrow Network visit blood.ca. Registrants must be in good health and be 17 to 35 years old. They must be willing to donate to any patient in need anywhere in the world and have Canadian health care coverage.


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

On June 7, 2016, the University of Calgary awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree to Christine McIver, our founder and chief executive officer, for her outstanding service to children and families affected by childhood cancer.The honorary PhD is the University of Calgary’s highest academic honour and recognizes individuals whose achievements and community service deserve acknowledgment. Kids Cancer Care would not be able to serve Alberta children and families without you and your ongoing support, so we consider the honour a mutual honour, shared with you. After receiving the honorary degree, Christine gave the convocation address to thousands of students graduating from the faculties of education, social work and environmental design. You can view Christine’s acceptance speech here.

We’d like to introduce you to the lovely Andrea. She’s making a difference in the lives of children affected by cancer by shaving her lid for a kid, not once, but twice! Read on to find out why Andrea’s hooked on Kids Cancer Care!


Roses are red
Violets are blue
I’m shaving my head
and I’m asking for donations from YOU! 

If my poetic talent is not enough to entice you to donate to my shave, then keep reading!

My name is Andrea, I am 21 years old and I love dogs (not relevant, but it’s an important thing about me).

On June 15, 2015 I will be shaving off all of my hair in support of the Kids Cancer Care Foundation.

In 2007, I participated in Shave Your Lid for a Kid to raise money for children and families affected by childhood cancer. The first time I did the shave, I did not know very much about the Kids Cancer Care Foundation, but after shaving my head in June of that year, my mom and I were invited out to visit Camp Kindle. I was hooked. Since 2007, I have volunteered as a camp counsellor at Camp Kindle (KCC’s amazing camp) numerous times, as well as I have volunteered at events in Calgary. I am continuously amazed by everyone who is apart of the organization.

I have worked hands on with some of the most amazing children I’ve ever met and their incredible families. I wish I had the words to explain how truly magical Camp Kindle is and how inspiring the campers are. I hope you will take my word for it though, and that you will help me to send more kids to camp. The money that I raise from shaving my head will go towards sending kids to camp as well as cancer research. I have seen first hand the positive impact that going to camp can have, and I want desperately to do what I can to make that possible for as many children as I can. While volunteering at Camp Kindle I have had the privilege of meeting many of the nurses who work in paediatric oncology as well as Kids Cancer Care’s program staff and they all work so hard to help keep these children’s spirits lifted. I want to do whatever I can to support that.

andrea 2

Please help me in whatever way that you are able to support the most amazing organization that I can think of. Any amount that you are able to donate is immensely appreciated. I am aiming to beat the amount that I raised in 2007 which was $5100! I am also planning some fundraisers over the next few months, so stay posted for information about those!

Thank you in advance for your support. To donate, please visit my shave profile.



Last week was a devastating week. Cancer unleashed its destructive and erratic force and took the lives of two young girls in the same day. Two families are mourning the loss of their little girls that were too young, too innocent and with far too much life left to live. Cancer robbed 18-year-old Gillian O’Blenes-Kaufman of her chance to experience the world and fulfill her dreams. And it robbed nine-year-old Diamond Marshall of her chance to grow up. Our hearts break at the injustice.

small-gillian-prismGillian was a gifted artist and dancer, who had an enthusiasm for living that showed in every aspect of her life. She lived more in her short 18 years than most people live in 90. In May, 2013, Gillian was diagnosed with a bone cancer that had already spread to her lungs. The resulting prognosis was not good. While some people would have given-up, Gillian refused to. Her resolve to accomplish her dreams only grew and resulted in living a life that inspired many. Gillian took the world by storm and was able to check off many items on her bucket-list, such as: travelling to Greece, graduating high school with honours, designing a helmet for Brad Spence, an Olympic skier, marrying her high-school sweetheart, going on a mission trip to Mexico and completing a semester at ACAD with straight A’s. Gillian’s life was full and bright and she will be missed by many.

Gillian O’Blenes-Kaufman

Diamond’s name perfectly captured her essence. Her light shinned so brightly, she captured the hearts of the world, including a princess. When Diamond was diagnosed with adrenal cancer at the age of five, she became fascinated with Prince William and Kate, while watching their wedding from her hospital bed. She told The Children’s Wish Foundation that her dream was to one day meet a princess. On July 7, 2011, the foundation helped make that dream come true and the world fell in love with the sweet little girl who gave Kate such a warm embrace. What Diamond may not have realised, was the lasting affect she had on all of us, including the Royal couple. Diamond was also the inspiration behind the Hockey Marathon for Kids and she will continue to be the reason many will lace up their skates. Diamond’s memory will continue to shine brightly and she will forever be missed.

Diamond Marshall

To Gillian and Diamond’s family and friends, we grieve alongside you. We are angry that these two beautiful young ladies lives were cut short and that cancer was the cause. To the doctors, nurses and caregivers that helped Gillian, Diamond and their families, our thoughts are with you. We know that every patient has a special place in your hearts and that losing two bright souls in one day is devastating.

There is no place in this world for childhood cancer. It’s unacceptable, plain and simple. In 2015, 160 children will be diagnosed with cancer right here in Alberta. That number is staggering and it should shock and anger you. The lives of these children matter and the lives of Gillian and Diamond matter.


Christine McIver, M.S.M., CFRE
Chief Executive Officer
Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta



Gillian’s art gallery


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