When Amy Elmaleh lost her mother and uncle to colon cancer, she and her aunt formed Colon Cancer Canada in order to make something positive out of the tragedy.
From left, Luba Sittler, Amy Elmaleh and Darryl Sittler, pose with the Wendy Bears.
She was 19 when her mother died at age 47, and shortly afterward, her aunt’s husband was diagnosed.
She said that after her uncle got sick, she and her aunt, Bunny Schwartz, decided that something had to be done.
“We had the idea for a walk/run and called it Colon Cancer’s Push for Your Tush. We’re now organizing our 15th annual run.”
This year, she said, seven different locations have signed on throughout May and June, with the Toronto run taking place May 29.
“We started with one location, and last year, 1,200 participants raised $318,000.”
With the success of the walk/run, Elmaleh said, they decided nine years ago to launch a gala, and then started a golf tournament, to be held this year on May 17 at Angus Glen Golf Club. “We’re excited that Anne Murray has signed on as the face of the tournament. She was looking for a charity that needed a celebrity’s support.”
Interviewed at her Leslie Street office, Elmaleh, 35, said that the effects of colon cancer are far reaching, “but people aren’t talking about it. There is still a lot of stigma, and hesitation about the test.”
A wife and mother with three young children, Elmaleh said that her work is her passion. “When my mother died, I changed my perspective on things. Had she been screened, my children would have met their grandmother.
“Her death has also kept me grounded. I’m reminded to appreciate the little things, and it has given me drive and motivation.”
The walk/run, she said, is “my other baby. It has become family- and friend-oriented, and the teams that come out are [made up of people] very much like me. We’re all in it for the same reason.”
They are also raising funds through the sale of their “Wendy Bear”being sold in memory of Wendy Sittler, the wife of hockey legend Darryl Sittler. “Wendy was a loyal friend of Colon Cancer Canada as she fought this disease and raised awareness for the cause. The money raised from the sale of the bear will go toward helping terminally ill patients spend time at home with their loved ones.”
Elmaleh’s message during national Colorectal Cancer Month is to not be embarrassed about taking the test. “It is worse to have [the disease] than to worry about the preparation. It’s quite an easy procedure.”
For information on any of the events or buying the Wendy Bear, call 416-785.0449 or visit www.coloncancer.ca.