Linda Buchan would be amazed by the success of an annual event she played a pivotal role in starting.
Ron Buchan said his wife, who passed away in 2002 after her fourth bout with cancer, would be thrilled by the progress the Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic has made for cancer care in the region.
“She would be ecstatic to see how far we’ve come,” he said at a news conference on Tuesday at the Fort William Curling Club in advance of the 18th annual event.
“She never would have dreamed, in her wildest dreams, we would be where we are today.”
The event has grown to be one of the most successful fundraisers in the entire city, raising more than $2.4 million in support of the Linda Buchan Centre through the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.
Sam McKnight, director of diagnostic services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, said the Linda Buchan Centre is the only breast assessment site in the region and is instrumental to providing treatment to women in their home community.
“The donations and funds that come in through the Hope Classic are instrumental with providing the Health Sciences Centre with imaging equipment for our breast assessment centre and we’re able to have state-of-the-art equipment because of the sponsorship we receive,” McKnight said.
Event chair Sue Childs has been running the event since Buchan’s passing and said her long-time friend and curling teammate is still a part of the tradition.
“She’s there and she’s watching us,” Childs said. “She’s very proud of the women of Thunder Bay and the people of Northwestern Ontario who support this event because it’s all about raising the money because this affects every single one of us, everyone has been touched by cancer.”
This year’s event will feature 48 teams participating throughout the course of a weekend, running from Feb. 7-9. Each curler must obtain at least $100 in pledges, meaning the event will raise a minimum of $24,000.
Where it goes from there is a bonus, Childs said.
At least $150,000 has been raised in each of the past 11 years and Childs owes the success to the communal feel of the weekend. In addition to the on-ice action, there are activities such as dancing, silent auctions and raffles to keep the mood light.
“The women walk in here on Friday night at 5 p.m. and it’s like you’re in another world,” she said.
“There are friendships renewed, the camaraderie and just the whole atmosphere and high-energy in the room, it’s two and a half days of fun.”
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