Play for a Cure Creates a Sense of Family Through Hope

Photo from playforacure.ca
Play for the Cure All-Star game group photo

A rink full of supporters gathered to create a brighter future through a fun event held at the Vollmer Complex on April 8.

Starting in 2019, Play for a Cure Pro-Am is a unique event that gives hockey legends and hockey fans the opportunity to meet and even face-off on the ice, according to playforacure.ca. The two day event started with a draft party where the fundraising totals are announced and the participating NHL players are drafted to their teams.

Unfortunately, the event had to be canceled the last two years due to Covid, so this year, the event felt even more anticipated and exciting.

Hockey brings Canadians together, and in a game where truly everyone wins – there was so much to enjoy, and so much to get caught up in. Everyone in attendance made it clear they were at the event to bring the odds of survival to one of the most devastating diagnoses anyone could receive – by creating a new sense of hope.

Being in the same building as this event immediately radiated a sense of compassion. Everyone was fighting, for the people they lost, for the people who have survived, for the researchers who want better odds, for a cure.

Dora Cavallo-Medved is a Professor at the University of Windsor she said the money raised at Play for the Cure will be going towards research at the University of Windsor, as well as cancer oncologist doctors at the Windsor Regional Hospital.

“Part of the money is invested directly into supporting research grants. So these are research projects that are happening here locally, both at the university and at the hospital, to support those local researchers,” said Cavallo-Medved. “The other part of the money is going to be used to build research in our new hospital system that we’re going to be getting in a few years from now. So it’s helping today but also helping for the future as well and getting us ready for that research component in the new hospital system … The passion, dedication, and commitment from the people across Windsor-Essex is so special and mind-blowing.”

Play for a Cure Event Director, Jeff Casey said he hopes the event starts a conversation to help the cause gain even more ground.

“We need to start talking about cancer research more and support it more in our community,” said Casey. “There’s a brand new hospital that’s coming and when you combine that with what opportunities exist within our community, we could help move cancer research forward.”

Casey, a cancer survivor of 13 years himself, clarified with the help of Dr. Caroline Hamm, Puck for a Cure sponsored a grant that will help find a way to get cancer patients more information when it comes to clinical trials.

“Clinical trials are a very important aspect for cancer patients who may not be getting the treatment that’s required for them, we’re still learning a lot in the world of cancer,” said Casey. “The clinical trials are set up to try new amounts, new drugs, new methodologies, and the more that we have, the better. So if a cancer patient doesn’t have access to what those clinical trials are, then they may miss out on an opportunity, something that could save their life. So [Hamm] has put together this program that helps cancer patients find more clinical trials.”

One of the most unique parts of the event is the fact every single person involved is a volunteer – meaning all the funds raised go directly towards the cause.

“It is truly a grassroots effort to bring people from all over Windsor and Essex County together to raise a whole whack load of money for cancer research,” said Tal Czudner. “We’ve come up with a little bit of a slogan the last couple of days, ‘we’re not great hockey players, but we’re great fundraisers.’ We have over 100 volunteers, and I think it shows how amazing our community is. This is about building hope, right? And when you’re fighting through cancer, it’s get up every day, find out what’s next, put one more step forward and keep going. So this helps build hope because cancer can beat the crap out of you. This is our opportunity to fight back.”

According to Statistics Canada, an estimated two in five Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, a statistic that further proves what more than one person mentioned as the event went on – everyone knows someone who has fought, is fighting, or has lost their fight with cancer. Being in an area where everyone understands what the person beside them is going through, one way or another, there was an intense sense of comfort and family.

“My Oncologist is a cancer researcher, she’s the one who’s responsible for saving my life, I would be remiss if I didn’t want to try to support what she’s trying to do to save more patients,” said Casey. “It’s a natural extension of things. We’ve brought together over 100 volunteers, 500 fans, 19 NHL alumni guys, and 150 hockey players – the list goes on. There are so many more people involved who really care about this.”

The Play for the Cure All-star game ended with a 5-7 score – a fact that shys to the fact the event altogether raised over $376,000.

“We plan on getting bigger next year,” said Czudner. “So if anyone wants to get involved, you want to hockey, you want to be involved from a hockey perspective, to volunteer, to help raise money, we’d love everyone to reach out. We’d love to grow even more.”

For more information or to participate in the next event, visit the Play for a Cure website.

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