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Friday, August 28, 2015

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Cancer patients recognized as heroes

Tags: Health
Hope & Cope founder Sheila Kussner, centre, is seen with sponsors of the cancer patient support program’s Soirée Fantastique, from left, Joel and Marlene King, Hy Polansky and Aldo Bensadoun. Howard Kay photo]

MONTREAL — Hope & Cope’s Soirée Fantastique 2013 shone a spotlight on the “ordinary heroes,” the cancer patients this support program remains with from the time of their diagnosis through their treatment and recovery.

Based at the Jewish General Hospital, Hope & Cope also offers a variety of programs to cancer survivors to help them stay well.

Chaired by Michael Flinker, the gala evening, held at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim last month, included dinner sponsored by Dianne and Aldo Bensadoun and Marlene and Joel King, with Hy Polansky picking up the tab for the wines. The floral centrepieces on the tables and in the lobby were donated by five florists.

The program combined videotaped messages from patients who shared their stories, with live performances by local talent.

Twelve-year old pianist Daniel Clarke-Bouchard demonstrated his prowess in both the classics and jazz, and singer Jodi Lazarus brought the audience to its feet with her rendition of Hero before opera star Gino Quilico took the stage. He was accompanied by the Voices of Hope Choir, composed of cancer survivors who rehearse weekly at Lou’s House, Hope & Cope’s Wellness Centre.

Dancers Pierre Hardy, who teaches a weekly jazz dance class at Lou’s House, and Linda Sirkos performed with their original choreography.

Susan Wener and Jason Freder provided testimonials about the profound impact that Hope & Cope’s support has on patients and their caregivers.

In his remarks, Flinker paid tribute to the memory of Marvyn Kussner, who died in June. The husband of Kussner Hope & Cope founder Sheila Kussner, Marvyn was a philanthropist who supported his wife’s work from the beginning.

“It was Marvyn who supported Sheila’s dream of creating Hope & Cope, and it was Marvyn who was Sheila’s most ardent champion…

“What Marvyn taught me is that in the face of cancer, heroism is not so much about grand gestures – although these are certainly important – but about the simple act of reaching out to others. Marvyn’s lasting legacy was his ability to inspire the hero in us all,” Flinker said.

Hope & Cope chair Lillian Vineberg thanked the program’s many heroes, from the patients themselves, who face each day with courage, to the caregivers, volunteers and staff who accompany them on their frightening journey, to the canvassers and donors who ensured the success of the Soirée.

Dr. Gerald Batist described the growth of the Jewish General Hospital’s department of oncology, which shares Hope & Cope’s goal of doing whatever is necessary to help cancer patients throughout the experience.

“As we enter a new era where personalized cancer treatment is becoming possible, Hope & Cope is there with strong academic programs, serving as an international model, aligned with vision and values of the [JGH] Segal Cancer Centre,”  Batist said.

Executive director Suzanne O’Brien announced that at this point in Hope & Cope’s fundraising campaign, which will continue until the end of March, $900,000 has been raised.

Proceeds from the evening will support Hope & Cope’s programs and services, all free of charge to cancer patients, offered at sites ranging from the oncology and radiotherapy clinics and palliative care unit to the off-site Lou’s House.

Managed by Hope & Cope, the centre is intended as an oasis for cancer patients during and immediately following treatment. With a focus on living well in mind, body and spirit, Lou’s House offers a wide range of programs including exercise, nutrition, creative therapies, self-help groups, coping skills training and transition workshops.

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