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Docs to dance for PET scanner purchase

Dancing with the Docs fundraiser scheduled for May 2 at the Valhalla Inn.

THUNDER BAY – Doctors at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre are about to get their dance on.

Eight physicians have teamed with local dancers to prepare for Dancing with the Docs, a May 2 fundraiser at the Valhalla Inn designed to raise money to buy a positron emission tomography scanner, a device used to help plan treatment of a growing number of cancer cases.

The hospital has a PET scanner, but it’s starting to show its age.

Patricia Del Paggio, with her brother Joseph, an oncologist at the Regional, helped create the event in honour of their mother Nikki Del Paggio, who succumbed to cancer last July at the age of 58.

Based on the popular Dancing with the Stars program, each team of dancers will choreograph a routine with local expert Carla Crupi and, with the music of a live band led by Danny Johnson, will perform for the audience the night of the event.

Judges and those in attendance will choose the winning team.

“We lost our mother last summer to lymphoma, so we wanted to honour her life and her legacy, and we thought what better way than my brother and I putting our two passions together. I’m the drama teacher, he’s the doctor and we put it together and we got Dancing with the Docs,” Del Paggio said on Friday, helping launch the event in a hospital foyer.

“She is our inspiration. She is the driving force behind everything that we do.”

The doctors were all too willing participants, said palliative care physician Kathy Simpson, who works alongside Joseph Del Paggio in the hospital’s oncology department.

She also treated Nikki Del Paggio during her brief bout with cancer.

“She was an inspiring woman who obviously inspired her children and her family, and they’ve created this wonderful way of honouring her and this is a legacy to her, probably the most important reason to be here,” Simpson said.

Despite her eagerness, it’s still pretty nerve-wracking trying to learn dance moves.

Simpson joked she quickly came to realize physicians are very heavy-footed.

“But those dancers can just pick us up and just move us along. Honestly, we just shuffle our feet a little and that’s all we do. They seem to make us look pretty good,” Simpson said. “it’s very nerve-wracking. None of us are at all skilled – well, except one – at dancing. It’s another level of humiliation for us.”

Physician Alysson Dykstra is the doctor with a dance background.

“It’s not cheating, everyone,” she joked at Friday’s launch.

“I was really excited, but mainly because I do take care of cancer patients down on the oncology unit. So I wanted to do this for them and also in memory and in honour of Nikki Del Paggio.”

Tickets for Dancing with the Docs are $150, and features a cocktail reception and four-course meal.

Members of the public can donate to their favourite pair of dancers or purchase tickets online at

Celebrity judges and other surprises will be revealed as the event nears. The team that raises the most money will be awarded a points bonus in the competition for the Mirror Ball trophy. 

The dancing pairs include:

  • Dr. Alyson Dykstra with Daniel Stilla
  • Dr. Bradley Jacobsen with Marnie Merchant
  • Dr. Olga Kisselgoff with Karim Coluccio
  • Dr. Mario Nucci with Meaghan Tofinetti
  • Dr. Chris Francis with Harmony Appell
  • Dr. Stewart Kennedy with Dr. Alea Crupi
  • Dr. Gabriel Mapeso with Jacqueline Marsh
  • Dr. Kathy Simpson with Jacob Gazzola

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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