For such a bad night, the turnout was terrific.
At least 130 people made it to The Dance for Her fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada on Wednesday at Métropolitain Brasserie, despite a major winter snowfall that was brewing outside, covering the roads and disrupting all modes of travel.
“When the storm hit, I wasn’t sure if it was just going to be me and the organizing committee standing here at the bar by ourselves,” a half-joking George Wamala, director of regulatory and government affairs at RBC, told a crowd of teal ribbon-wearing supporters. “But, the fact that you all came out, regardless of the weather, is much appreciated.”
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It had been three years since Wamala and fellow lobbyists Greg MacEachern and Bobby Sutherland, senior director of government affairs at biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, first hosted their fundraiser at Métropolitain Brasserie (the Met) to support the groundbreaking research being made against ovarian cancer. The event was launched shortly after the passing of MacEachern’s sister from the disease. It’s also what took Wamala’s mom’s life, at age 52, in 2001.
Wamala and Sutherland had previously met with MacEachern, while he was grieving, to check up on their friend and see how he was doing. Their drinks and discussion at the Met turned into benevolent action. A new fundraiser was born.
“The whole point was to turn something positive out of something that was quite tragic,” said MacEachern, senior vice president of government relations and Ottawa general manager of government relations firm Proof Strategies.
He told everyone how “pleased and touched” they were by the support for their inaugural event in January 2020, and how they were “really gung-ho” to bring everyone together again in 2021. Of course, we all know what happened next. It’s only been about eight months since in-person events have started to really bounce back from the pandemic.
“It’s so good to have people back in a room for this cause,” said MacEachern while also acknowledging RBC and Innovative Medicines Canada for their support.
Joining the organizing committee were two new volunteers: former journalist Heather Bakken, a partner of the newly launched communications firm Pendulum Group, and Shannon Kot, a partner at Deloitte. Kot was joined by an all-women leadership team from her firm as a result of having lost a colleague, Nousha Ram, 47, to ovarian cancer in 2017.
Courtney Willis from Ovarian Cancer Canada told OBJ.social how grateful OCC is to organizers and attendees for accelerating the progress they’re making toward overcoming ovarian cancer. “All of these efforts are helping us to get closer to the next big breakthrough, which is just around the corner,” she said. Organizers figure they raised roughly $20,000.
This year’s event featured a DJ and dancing, and a live auction for two primo seats to an upcoming Ottawa Senators game against the Colorado Avalanche. Bakken used her comical and persuasive powers (she even promised to throw in a hotdog) to sell the $450 tickets for $550 to John Maus, senior vice president of member relations and services at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The tickets were donated by Cheryl Fougere and Rogers Communications.
The evening also featured a raffle for a pair of tickets to anywhere Air Canada flies domestically.
Among the partygoers to hit the dance floor was ovarian cancer survivor Andrea Kent, vice president of industry and government affairs at Greenfield Global. Her cancer was caught early as the result of a routine pelvic exam.
Roughly 3,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and more than half die from it within five years. One of the reasons it’s so deadly is because its symptoms are hard to detect in the early stages.
Ovarian cancer may seem like a female health issue, said Kent, “but everyone comes from ovaries. We all came from or have or had ovaries. Without ovaries, none of us would be here.”