Cancer touches all of our lives in one way or another.
A loved one, a friend, a coworker, a child, or a community member. And for as many lives as cancer touches, there are those who work tirelessly to raise funds for research to eradicate it.
Those making breakthroughs in medical research, genetic testing and identification, and those who volunteer to run organizations that raise money to fund these medical advances, give incredible support of not only money, but their time as well.
There are individuals who raise money, run marathons, run across the county. Cops ride bikes to raise funds.
As many ways you can think of, people raise funds and work tirelessly as volunteers to make the day possible when cancer is a memory.
In Smithers, organizations hold events every year. Relay for Life, which turned into the Daffodil Dash, the Terry Fox Run, Cops for Cancer ride, and so many more.
Individuals also step up. Last year, Luke Smith, grew his hair out to raise funds for families with children with cancer in the Bulkley Valley. And when he cut the hair off, he donated it to make wigs for those fighting cancer.
It is remarkable, the way in which people decide to participate, the creativity of their ideas and the astounding amounts of money they raise.
The Smithers community has been generous and continues to be.
Businesses donate money, sponsor teams and give to auctions, children make art to sell.
Hundreds of motorcyclists turn out annually for the Chip Run to raise money.
It is incredible the level of participation from all corners of our community. Even some very talented seniors knit Afghans to auction for the cause.
The Relay for Life in Smithers began in 2002 and ran successfully until 2015, when organizers decided to change the event up a bit.
Formed in 2015 the Daffodil Dash encourages participation in even larger community involvement.
Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) Past President, Debbie Courtliff, said the Daffodil Dash would require less volunteer output than the Relay, which was a 12-hour event.
“(The Relay) was not a set distance but someone on your team would be on the track walking for the 12 hour event,” Courtliff said.
The Daffodil Dash is a distance event, with choices of 2 km, 5 km and 10km. People can walk, run or bike their choice of distance.
The Daffodil Dash is scheduled April 14-24, coinciding with Daffodil Month and includes a silent auction, along with other fun events to participate in.
Money raised from the events goes toward research, prevention education and support for the cancer society lodges that house and feed cancer patients while they are receiving treatment in major centres.
Jane Hoek is one individual who dedicated more than 40 years volunteering for the Cancer Society. In 2020, Jane moved to Prince George to be closer to family, and her presence is missed by all involved.
“She loved the Daffodil Dash and for many years she spearheaded the daffodil campaign in Smithers,” Jane’s daughter Lisa Hoek, said.
“It began with sales of fresh daffodils. I remember mum receiving hundreds of boxes of fresh daffodils each spring, she sorted them by hand with such love, she organized the sales along with her wonderful team of cancer volunteers and she spent many hours sitting at her table in the SuperValu mall. She was the face of the cancer society in Smithers for so many years.
“She would be so thrilled to know she’s remembered as being part of this. She put her heart and soul into this campaign.”
Other society members have their own reasons for their long-term involvement.
Grace Kwan became a volunteer in Smithers for the CCS in 2003 after returning home from many months of back-and-forth to Vancouver helping support family members with cancer, and at the same time dealing with her own in-laws going through cancer diagnosis.
“Being surrounded by cancer in those months, I felt helpless and wishing and praying there was something that could be done to help alleviate their anxieties and anxiousness,” Kwan said. “Back in Smithers, I was looking for some way to give back, some way to help, or just how to help those in need. I found out there was a Relay for Life in town and I called in to the Cancer Society to see if I could help in some way. Since then I’ve felt I am giving back in some way, not only to raising money to those in need but also to research in finding cures.
“Still today, I find volunteering so life-giving, not only to myself but to see and hear others and their loved ones, so brave and strong in and through their journey with cancer. When their journey includes smiles and laughs and gratitude for living life, I am filled with love and they inspire me and it encourages me to continue.”
Grant Harris, joined around 2006, he recalled.
“It was and is an amazing heartwarming and (heart)-breaking experience,” he said. “Warming because of the over-the-moon support that the citizens and business community gave/give to the event. Breaking because of the horrible number of people affected by cancer that one was made aware of.
“It’s staggering. In the beginning, I found myself volunteering for a wide variety of tasks from publicizing the event, fundraising, stage managing and announcing, to lifting barges and toting pails, all focussed on a 24-hour period over a weekend in May, often without any sleep though the cold and occasionally wet nights into the morning.
“The lighting of the candles and the reading of the names of cancer victims during the Luminary Ceremony was so moving and heartbreaking, I still get a lump in my throat and emotional just thinking about it. All those friends and family and strangers whose names were said aloud into the night; the hushed steps of the relayers passing by the glowing luminaries placed around the old track at Chandler Park. Those images and feelings are forever with me, and they are the reason that I still take part in what is now the Daffodil Dash.”
“Anyone who has been part of the committee would find it hard to say “no” to helping. Many of the current members have been part of this event pretty much since the first one and have stayed through it’s evolution. I feel they are heroes, though most if not all of them will refuse the title. They / we continue to do the work because… we have fun together and we help the Canadian Cancer Society in their work and we have all been affected by Cancer. Also we get to see our community at it’s most generous and gracious best. Thank you Smithers for everything.”
Another long time dedicated volunteer to this group is Lorna Thornton.
“I have been involved in organizing the Relay or Dash for more the 15 years,” she said. “I wanted to get involved in an organization in my community, and I began volunteering with the CCS in health promotion. From there, I joined in organizing the relay.
“I feel privileged to have worked with such amazing committees. Over the years I have been so impressed with the community’s generosity and willingness to support our events for the CCS. Cancer has touched my family and close friends and this along with the stories of how the CCS has supported many of our community members especially through research ensures my continual involvement.”
“My favourite memories usually involve the great costumes and watching people complete some of the activities. The slingshot seemed to be one of the favourite activities over the years, but there are so many, it’s hard to think of them all.”
With this kind of dedication, and many, many more who volunteer and donate every year, the Daffodil Dash is one of those events that will continue to inspire people, as the entire community fights to rid the hideous disease known as Cancer.