Hamiltonians called upon to get active and raise funds for important nonprofit

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Published May 11, 2020 at 7:13 pm

Who would you walk for on May 23?

Who would you walk for on May 23?

Hamilton’s Cancer Assistance Program (CAP) is hosting a virtual version of their CARE Walk later this month, and this year, the need for community support is greater than ever.

As lockdown measures remain in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic financial hardships are being felt by all, particularly organizations that rely solely on donations.

“Everyone is in a tricky position,” said Ashlee Leggett, CAP’s Fund Development Manager. “We’re really sensitive to that and we just want people to know that anything you can give helps.”

CAP’s traditional services for cancer patients — like rides to and from appointments — have been halted, despite the fact that cancer treatments continue.

Volunteers and staff, however, are still trying to support their clients by providing medical equipment to patients being sent home from hospital and getting them food, nutritional supplements and incontinence products through the contactless ‘Drive to Deliver’ initiative that has helped hundreds of patients since the start of the pandemic.

The CARE Walk is the organization’s newest fundraising endeavour: this will be the sixth year for the event and it has grown exponentially since year one.

“Participation has almost doubled every year,” Leggett said.

The 5K walk usually takes place at Bayfront Park, but the physical event, like most events around the city, has been cancelled.

“We talked about postponing it until later in the summer, but we worried that the participation level will drop,” Leggett said.

Therefore, the CAP team looked at ways they could change things up and still get people active and raise some much-needed funds for the organization.

They came up with the virtual walk. Participants can sign up, raise funds through sponsors and still get active doing whichever kind of activity they choose. Participants can share their progress and acknowledge the generosity of their sponsors via social media.

“They [participants] don’t even have to leave their neighbourhood,” Leggett said. “Or even their house.”

When it is safe to do so, Leggett said, CAP will hold a post-walk event with food trucks, prizes and swag bags for participants.

“We’ve been so pleasantly surprised at the response,” Leggett said. “We’re already ahead in our online fundraiser than this time last year.”

At the time of publication, the fundraiser has raised approximately 40 per cent of its goal.

One of the biggest contributors so far is Team Shep, which is helmed by former CAP client Cathy Sheppard.

Sheppard first became involved with CAP back in 2014 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Sheppard says she came across an ad for CAP and its services and reached out to enquire about their ride program.

“That started one of the best relationships I’ve ever had with any type of company,” Sheppard said. “I couldn’t believe what a great bunch of people they were.”

When she finally felt up to it, Sheppard and her husband, Jim, started participating in the walks.

“I couldn’t wait to fundraise for them,” she recalls. “[We] had a fantastic day down at Bayfront Park for our first walk with CAP.”

Shortly after their first walk in 2016, however, Jim was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and the family once again, turned to CAP for support.

“CAP’s support through that terrible time was outstanding,” Sheppard said. “They supplied us with anything and everything we needed (even a shoulder to cry on) — no questions asked — no money paid.”

In 2017, after months of surgeries and treatments, the Sheppards once again turned out to support CAP’s CARE Walk.

“[It was] another great day at Bayfront,” she remembers. Jim passed away a little under a year later in April 2018.

Sheppard, however, still gathered her village and participated in the walk again, this time in honour of the memory of her husband.

“I pulled myself together and asked some family and friends to help me out and we put ‘Team Shep’ to work so that we could walk for everyone and anyone that cancer has touched,” she said.

Since then, the team has raised thousands for CAP and this year won’t be any different.

“This year (my 5th) Team Shep will meet in a parking lot (together, but socially distant) and make the most out of a really bad situation,” Sheppard said. “CAP deserves the most utmost praise in everything they do.”

The cancellation of the event will have an impact on the momentum the walk has gained over the last five years and the concern is that CAP’s goal of raising $35,000 will fall short given that a significant number of donations come from walkers who bring cash and cheques the day of the event.

“We’ve seen a big drop in sponsors because a lot of them have had to put [charitable giving] on pause,” Leggett said.

So far, FirstOntario Credit Union, L.J. Barton Mechanical, Morison Insurance, and Edward Jones are sponsoring the event this year but they’re always looking for more.

Much of the funds will be put towards CAP’s Drive to Deliver Program as closures and physical distancing recommendations remain in place, Leggett explained.

“We’re very grateful for the support we’ve gotten so far,” she said. “And we know it’s a sensitive time for everyone but there’s a little bit of urgency.”

Participants each pay a $20 fee (kids under 18 are free) to register and they can build teams. The entrance fee gives you access to a social media toolkit and an invite to the post-walk event that will be held on a to-be-determined date.

You can build a profile on the event page where sponsors can make donations and participants can tell their story and explain why they are walking in the event.

Those interested in registering can do so on CAP’s website.

On Saturday, May 23, all you have to do is get active — in a physically distanced way — and start sharing your experience on social media under the hashtag #capwalk2020.

“We just hope to get everybody moving and to raise awareness,” Leggett said.

The question remains, who would you be walking for on May 23rd?

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