It's a $1M win for Cancer Champions Breakfast in support of Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

Annual event raises most amount of money to date despite switching to a virtual format due to COVID-19 pandemic
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Cancer coaching clients Jocelyne and Wayne Liko speak with host Catherine Clark as part of the Cancer Champions Breakfast, held in a virtual format on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in support of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Photo by Jennifer Madigan
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You can bet 2020 Cancer Champions Breakfast chair Ian Sherman and the staff at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation woke up this morning feeling like a million bucks.

The nonprofit organization has announced that its virtual breakfast, held Wednesday morning, raised $1,063,799.18 (and still counting!) for its cancer coaching program and its support of local cancer research and clinical trials.

The million-plus dollars is the most amount of money the event has ever raised in a single year, according to the Cancer Foundation. It's a particularly satisfying result when one considers the challenges that organizers faced this year in holding the breakfast. First of all, the event had to be delayed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, it had to be held in a virtual format, allowing participants to follow along online.

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The breakfast, hosted by experienced public speaker and emcee Catherine Clark, featured interviews with local cancer care professionals and patients. There were also remarks from Sherman, who took over the leadership role for the breakfast this year. He's a tax partner at EY, where he's worked for nearly 31 years.

Sherman had previously expressed confidence that he and the fundraising team could reach $1 million. Helping organizers hit their target was a special 25x25 campaign that asked 25 individuals, families and companies to donate $25,000 in honour of the Foundation’s 25th anniversary.

"We know how generous this community is, we know how many leaders step forward every day to make a difference in the lives of others, so we knew we could set our sights high and truly make a big impact on the lives of our friends and loved ones who are facing cancer,” he stated.

For Sherman, the breakfast turned out to be a labour of love.

"We certainly had been hoping that we would be meeting as a community, in person, physically, at the Infinity Convention Centre, back on May 13th," he said during the virtual breakfast, in conversation with Clark. "However, I think we are the first – or among the first within this community – to launch a virtual breakfast, and the effort has been so worthwhile for such a worthy cause."

The Cancer Champions Breakfast followed right on the heels of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa's virtual breakfast, which was held the day before. It also raised $1 million. Together, the two fundraisers injected positive news in a world that badly needs it at this time.

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Ian Sherman with Catherine Clark at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation's Maplesoft-GumDocs Centre for Cancer Survivorship, earlier this month, to help promote the nonprofit organization's Cancer Survivors Breakfast. Photo by Caroline Phillipa

Sherman, who's an established business and community leader in Ottawa, said he's always had a passion for health care.

"It's rather interesting because the whole world of health care is so scientific and technological and those who know me best know that I'm not a scientific, technological kind of guy. Having said that, health care permeates everything. Health care is everything."

He spoke about he was just "trying to do my part" by chairing this year's Cancer Champions Breakfast. It wasn't until after Sherman took up the charge that a close member of his family was diagnosed with the deadly disease.

"I'm not going to deny that my father-in-law is in a battle," he said, earnestly, adding that the cancer cause "has become very personal."

Speakers at the virtual event included Dr. John Bell, senior scientist in cancer therapeutics at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute; Stephanie Woodard, manager of health coaching, strategy and impact at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation; Chuck Merovitz, cancer survivor and fundraiser; Dr. John Sinclair, director of cerebrovascular surgery and director of neurosurgical oncology at The Ottawa Hospital; and cancer coaching client Jocelyne and Wayne Liko. Viewers also heard from Paula Muldoon, vice-president of development and community engagement at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and the ORCF’s new president and CEO, Michael Maidment.

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Dr. John Sinclair in conversation with host Catherine Clark as part of the Cancer Champions Breakfast for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Photo by Christian McCuaig.

"We are absolutely blown away by the community's support, especially at a time when so many local causes are in great need," stated Muldoon. "The funds we have worked together to raise today are going to help change lives across Eastern Ontario, getting more patients the support and care that they need, close to home. 

“Cancer patients have faced so many additional challenges because of the pandemic, like increased stress and cancelled surgeries, and we are so grateful to be able to help."

The Cancer Champions Breakfast was sponsored by premium sponsors Joe Clark & Associates Limited, EY, and Brazeau Seller Law; by associate sponsors Assante Wealth Management, Beyond Yoga Studio & Wellness Centre, Syntax Strategic, Valecraft Homes Ltd, and the Foundation WCPD; and by supporting sponsors BMR Group, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, Centennial Glass, District Realty, Duane Francis Wealth Creation, Extend Pharmacy, GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants, Innovative Medicines Canada, and Kott Inc.

– caroline@obj.ca