A personal thank you doesn’t get much better than the special evening Aiāna Restaurant Collective hosted Wednesday night for members of our community who, through their support of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, are advancing cancer research and making sure those diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease get the practical and emotional help they need.
Some 85 invited guests gathered downtown to enjoy the finest food and drinks generously provided by Aiāna owner Devinder Chaudhary while mingling with like-minded community leaders in a gorgeous setting.
“It’s just so nice to host such generous people who have such big hearts and are so full of care, kindness and compassion,” Chaudhary told OBJ.social. “It’s an honour to stand in their company.”
The donors were welcomed by ORCF president and CEO Michael Maidment, along with the non-profit organization’s vice president of development and community engagement, Paula Muldoon, vice president of philanthropy Josée Quenneville, and Dr. Rebecca Auer, a surgical oncologist and director of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital.
“Tonight, it’s all about thanking you for your impact and support in our community,” Maidment told a crowd that has been donating its money and/or time to raise important funds for the cancer foundation.
One of the focuses of the ORCF is to support the local clinical trials and cancer research that are giving hope to cancer patients and their families. One example of this, said Maidment, is the CAR T-cell therapy, an exciting new form of immunotherapy that’s being led by Dr. Natasha Kekre, a hematologist and scientist at The Ottawa Hospital. It uses a patient’s own immune cells to find and attack cancer cells throughout the body. “There are some incredible clinical trials happening right here,” he pointed out.
The foundation is also focusing its fundraising on its new Community Cancer Hub, launched last June to serve as a one-stop portal for cancer patients in the region. It works alongside its health care partners to assist cancer patients with their “every day and practical needs,” said Maidment of helping patients navigate the complex health care system, find the mental health support and group sessions they need, and even pay for parking for patients who can’t otherwise afford to make their appointments.
Programs and services are offered at the ORCF’s Maplesoft-Jones Centre for Cancer Survivorship at 1500 Alta Vista Dr., as well as virtually for easier access throughout the region. The demand is growing increasingly, said Maidment, who attributes the spike in interest to the delays in medical appointments and screening tests over the past few years of the pandemic. “Now those people are getting screened, they’re getting diagnosed, and they’re finding out about the programs that we provide.”
The hub is also trying to help underserved communities, where people, due to language, culture or other barriers, may have trouble receiving cancer treatment and support. “There are a lot of people who are being left behind in this system,” said Maidment.
The pandemic has been a challenging time for fundraising for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Muldoon recalled how they “didn’t know what to do” when all their in-person events first got cancelled. She recalled how she sat down with community leader and award-winning volunteer fundraiser Ian Sherman to start working on a virtual version of the Cancer Champions breakfast in 2020. They aimed to secure 25 gifts of $25,000 in honour of the organization’s 25th anniversary. Not only did they reach their goal but they ended up with 42 gifts of $25,000. The successful breakfast returned to its usual in-person format last year, attracting a 500-person crowd.
Also back was Fight for the Cure, an exciting white-collar boxing fundraiser that raised more than $1 million in 2022. Several of the participants were at the party, still looking quite buff from all those months of training for their big night in the ring. As well, there were organizers from the Hip Heals fundraising concert at The Rainbow Bistro last fall, held in honour of the five-year passing of the late Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. Also there was business leader Duane Francis, who co-chairs an annual golf tournament for the ORCF. Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe made an appearance, too.
“We are very grateful to our donors and our volunteers for their unwavering support,” Muldoon told OBJ.social. “Their generous donations are giving cancer patients hope and their families the gift of time.”