Local businesses step up for Cancer support in Northern Ontario

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Last week at their Flint House restaurant, Duane and Grace Cridland hosted “An Evening with the Canadian Cancer Society.” The evening saw hundreds of thousands of dollars in commitments to fund cancer research in Northern Ontario, and featured keynote speaker Dr. Alla Reznik of Lakehead University, who spoke about her cancer research.

Dr. Reznik gave an in-depth presentation about mammography and the complications that result from current standard testing practices. Dr. Reznik and her team have developed a new process that can help to reduce the number of false positives and unnecessary surgical biopsies in women. The research for the new process was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The device replaces the x-ray of a typical mammogram with a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) camera. The scan is also far less painful for women. Research is ongoing, and Dr. Reznik says they hope to be able to use the technology to be able to detect testicular cancers in men as well.

The goal of the Northern Ontario campaign is to continue to fund similar research in the region. Dr. Reznik’s new technology is highly portable and could benefit the sparsely populated region of northern Ontario if and when it gets to market.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society: “An estimated 5,600 residents from Northern Ontario are diagnosed with cancer every year. While our region represents 5.7% of all Ontario residents, the rates of cancer incidence and death are proportionally higher for the size of our population. Why is this? An aging and rural population. Lower levels of income. Lack of easy access to medical care. These all contribute to cancer rates in Northern Ontario.

“While we see advances in detecting and treating all types of diseases, cancer remains a significant health challenge for people in northern Ontario. By 2030, the number of cases will be almost 80 percent higher than the number diagnosed in 2015. Investing in regional support programs and research is critical to lessening the burden of cancer on families and creating a better future for people in our region.

The goals of the campaign are to support cancer patients across the region, with help in travel assistance, and offering support in other ways.

John Homer of Causeway Insurance MC’d the event. He welcomed the crowd, saying it was the first of its kind in a long time because of COVID. Many people hadn’t seen that many others in one room in a long time.

He reminded everyone that there is hardly anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some shape or form.

Host Duane Cridland spoke to the gathered group, thanking them for being there and the generosity of people in The District.

“I’d like to say thank you for being here, we’ve been lucky enough to live our whole lives here short of a few pieces,” Cridland said. “It’s always shocked me over my years in Fort Frances how a name could come up, could be a kid with cancer or something unique. A couple phone calls would be made and there would be $45,000 sitting in a bank account. We have the community chest, which money just comes out of the sky…” Cridland joked.

The Cridlands were also willing to put their money where their mouth was. They started off the announcements with a generous donation of $100,000. That announcement was followed shortly after by NewGold mines announcing that they would match the Cridland’s donation with $100,000 of their own.

Other generous donations from local business owners included $40,000 from John Homer and Causeway Insurance, another $2,000 from Kreger Sales and Service in Rainy River and Kim Metke, former owner of Pharmasave, donated $25,000.

One of the more emotional donations was for $11,000, presented by Doug Cuthbertson in memory of his wife, Connie, who died of breast cancer in 2014. The money was donated at the time of his wife’s death but the family were looking for the right cause to give it to, in hopes it could stay in the area. The funds had been saved for years waiting for the right cause. For the family, the Northern Ontario Campaign with the Canadian Cancer Society felt like the right time to finally donate the money that had been saved for so long.

As of this writing, the campaign has raised $681,913 – more than a quarter of the initial $2 million goal.

“There’s fundraising issues across the world that have stopped, come to a complete halt. Yet sickness never stops. So thank you for being here and let’s just keep Fort Frances in the place that it belongs,” Cridland said growing emotional. “With a community we all want to live in and be a part of and grow older in.”

To donate to the Northern Ontario Campaign or for more information visit Cancer.ca