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'Let's help the next child': Be a Hero cancer campaign underway

Heads will be shaved for the bi-annual initiative spearheaded by York Regional Police to raise money for Southlake's pediatric oncology unit
Be A Hero campaign ambassador Charlotte Wilson shaves the head of Sgt. Andy Pattenden during a launch event March 22.

Fighting through tears, York Regional Police Const. Joey Wilson recounted his family's journey when his daughter, Charlotte, was diagnosed with leukemia.

At the launch of the force’s Be a Hero fundraising campaign today, Wilson said his family was helped greatly by Southlake Regional Health Centre's pediatric oncology clinic. 

Having gone through that experience with his child, he urged others to support the campaign’s efforts to support the clinic.

“The clinic was extremely clean, warm and comforting,” Wilson said. “Charlotte was given the care she needed. Now, let’s help the next child in our community.”:

You can do that through the bi-annual fundraising campaign going on for the next month. Members of emergency services will be campaigning for the next several weeks, capping off with dozens of members shaving their hair at the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket on April 22. Participating organizations include York Paramedic Services, Central York Fire Services and York Regional Transit. 

York Regional Police Deputy Chief Paulo De Silva said the Wilson family is an inspiration. He added that hearing the stories of members impacted by cancer and being treated at Southlake was a big motivation for the campaign to raise funds for the unit.

“We know this money is going to the right place,” De Silva said. “We know that the work of our incredible Southlake team of doctors and nurses will make a huge difference in the lives of young people and their families in their community, and that is something we can all get behind.”

This is the first time the event has run since 2019. Typically taking place every other year, the event was cancelled in 2021 during the pandemic. That year, the campaign helped fundraise a bell for patients to ring in the unit once their treatments are done.

Southlake vice-president of major gifts and campaigns Lesley Ring expressed appreciation for the support and said the oncology unit, which partners with SickKids, had 1,300 visits last year.

“When a family is focused on fighting cancer, they can receive leading-edge cancer care right here, at home, in our community. They don’t have to take on the added stress, added burden of travelling downtown (Toronto) for their care,” she said. “Events like this help make that happen.” 

The campaign also kicked off with a donation from the Dan Clewlow Memorial Softball Tournament, which provided $13,450 from funds raised the last time the tournament was run. The annual event recognizes Clewlow, a former officer who passed away from cancer in 2015.

To finish the launch event, Sgt. Andy Pattenden, himself a cancer survivor, had his head shaved by the Wilsons.

“It’s an event that I’ve been a part of 18 years now,” he said. “I'm proud to be a part of it and continue to get all my friends and family to donate.” 

Over the course of the event’s 19 years, it has raised more than $350,000. 

Wilson said Southlake’s clinic did the little things that mattered for his family.

“I would like to challenge everyone here to help us fight childhood cancer,” he said. 

You can register to participate or donate through the campaign website