TORONTO — Evan Erlick was only 13 when he lost his battle with brain cancer in December 2006.
During his nearly two-year ordeal, he had two dreams – that cancer could be eradicated, and that children having cancer treatments at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children could have someplace where they would be able to play games, relax and, for a little while, just be kids.
A fundraiser to help bring his dreams to fruition will be held Feb. 25 at Tryst Nightclub, 82 Peter St., at 7:30. In a Cuban atmosphere, Hot Havana Nights will feature signature cocktails, an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, live and silent auctions, live entertainment, a DJ and a dancer. The 500 participants will celebrate “in spicy salsa or cool cocktail attire,” SickKids organizer Jaime Wilson said.
Proceeds will be shared between SickKids, for the special room, and the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), which sponsors cancer research in Israel. Wilson said that construction of the new waiting room at SickKids will begin later this month.
It is hoped that Evan’s dream will be an annual affair, Wilson said. “Last year’s event, the first, Funky Black & White Masquerade, was held at This is London Nightclub. It raised over $300,000.”
Evan’s mother, Lisa Erlick, described her late son as “feisty, a typical kid, who got into trouble.”
He showed the same qualities as a cancer patient, she said. “He was a real trooper, coping with many surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.”
The idea for a kids’ playroom came when Evan watched children waiting for blood test results, treatments or consultations.
“He felt that they should have somewhere that they could, for a little while, just have fun as kids,” Erlick said.
The new room will be “bright and airy, with games, stickies and all kinds of things,” she added.
Joy Wagner Arbus, executive director of ICRF, said that its portion of the proceeds will go to fund research that the organization’s scientific review panel considers to have the most potential to save lives.
The partnership between SickKids and the ICRF has not just been successful, she said. “but our causes are synergistic. We both hope to save lives of kids like Evan.
“The room will give a better experience for kids undergoing a terrible experience,” Wagner Arbus added.
Erlick said services and fundraising are affected by the current recession. “There are long lineups for chemotherapy, which makes it hard for everyone. Cancer isn’t affected by a recession.”
An emotional Erlick, who has been involved with ICRF for a long time, said, “If the kids go through so much, this project is the least I can do.”