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Woman battling cancer shaves her head to send kids to camp

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Marleine Kay Levin shaves her head to raise money for Camp Oochigeas.

Marleine Kay Levin, who has been battling cancer since 2016, has shaved her head in an effort to raise money for Camp Oochigeas, a camp for children with cancer.

Levin was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, which affects the uterus, around two years ago, but this wasn’t the first time she has had to deal with the disease. In 1993, her mother, Eva Kay, who immigrated to Canada from Scotland 31 years ago, was diagnosed with breast cancer and managed to beat it.

Levin’s cancer has metastasized, meaning it has spread to other parts of her body, but she’s not letting that fact bring her down. “I’m feeling very positive and very hopeful that I’m going to be well again,” she said confidently.

The long-time member of Temple Kol Ami in Thornhill, Ont., hasn’t let the negativity faze her. In fact, she’s embraced it: the 66-year-old describes her battle with cancer as a “spiritual journey.”

Earlier this month, Levin decided to shave her head to raise $4,000, enough to send two kids with cancer to Camp Oochigeas. With more than $3,000 raised so far, Levin hopes she can reach her goal soon.

Affectionately known as Camp Ooch, it is the only overnight camp in Ontario that offers onsite chemotherapy IV treatment and blood transfusions.

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Located in Muskoka, Ont., Camp Ooch runs year round programs at the site, as well as at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and various other cancer centres throughout Ontario.

Camp Ooch, which does not receive government or hospital funding, is run by volunteers and funded solely through donations.

“I wanted to do something positive to help other cancer patients. I didn’t want to become a victim of cancer. I really wanted to do something to help children,” Levin said.

“I was very inspired to hear about Camp Oochigeas and the remarkable work they do. Cancer kids get a chance to be regular kids.”

Levin has been a driving force on the social action committee at Temple Kol Ami for 12 years. Her fellow congregants returned the favour by sending her donations, spreading the word and finding a volunteer barber.

The fundraiser at Levin’s home was attended by more than 30 of her close friends, Temple Kol Ami members and guest speaker Rita Morgan, whose 13-year-old daughter has been attending the camp for eight years now.

I didn’t want to become a victim of cancer. I really wanted to do something to help children.
– Marleine Kay Levin

“Over the years, (Camp Ooch) has been like an extended family,” Morgan said. “It has really gotten us through the hard times. It’s given my daughter something to look forward to and I don’t know what we would’ve done without them.”

Alex Robertson, CEO of Camp Oochigeas, was pleased to receive support from Levin.

“Given the unique program offering that Camp Oochigeas has, that attracts many who understand the impact of cancer,” Robertson said. “I haven’t met her myself, but it’s incredible (that Levin) seizes the opportunity to make a difference of the life of a child who is going through cancer such as she is.”

Levin has even received donations from Scotland, the country she left 31 years ago. n

You can help Levin reach her goal by donating to Camp Ooch.