If Laurene Clark seemed particularly passionate about Thursday's Jingle Mingle at the Fairmont Empress, it was for good reason.
The Royal LePage realtor wasn't just on the organizing committee for the B.C. Cancer Foundation's fundraiser, where 230 guests raised $1.2 million for breakthrough research at the B.C. Cancer Agency's Vancouver Island Centre.
Clark, who 18 months ago was advised to get her affairs in order when she was diagnosed with cancer for the third time in 16 years, had an inspirational story to tell about successfully putting her future in the hands of her oncologist and care team.
"I truly believe the treatment we receive is 21st century, but the supportive care has lagged," she said, explaining her advocacy for a patient navigation research program, the object of this year's Fund-a-Need component.
"You enter the system and you're on a treadmill of diagnosis, surgery, treatment and post-treatment care," she said. "Taking advantage of social media, the expertise of caregivers and electronic advancements makes it easier to navigate the cancer highway."
Philanthropist Jo Campbell, wife of the late Thrifty Foods co-founder Alex Campbell, got a standing ovation when she donated $500,000 for the program designed to ensure patients and families can more easily collaborate with caregivers.
"I've been touched personally by cancer experiences," said her daughter Bonnie Campbell, the event chairwoman, who also honoured her benevolent father for instilling in her the importance of giving back.
"The B.C. Cancer Agency is very innovative. This is a cause I get excited about raising money for because I can see stuff happening right here on the Island."
After the chic cocktail party and auction, dozens of patrons who paid $500 apiece attended a Jingle SoirÃ©e dinner at Pesca-tore's, where Chemainus tenor Ken Lavigne and his combo presented a Celtic medley of Christmas carols.
Breast cancer survivors on the Island Breaststrokers dragon-boat team wore pink boas and sold raffle tickets for a luxury trip to San Francisco.
Guests also bid on auction items including a Mediterranean cruise, a 2012 Hyundai Accent, a "three-hour tour" on SS Minnow of Gilligan's Island fame, getaways to resorts including River Rock Casino and a No. 10 Los Angeles Lakers jersey signed by hometown NBA star Steve Nash.
The event attracted many familiar faces on this city's fundraising circuit, including Daniel Sharp.
"I'd go to the opening of an envelope," quipped Sharp, the CEO of Western Allergy Services Ltd.
Douglas Nelson, the foundation's president and CEO, celebrated its recent selection as one of Canada's best-performing charities by Charity Intelligence Canada.
"It's a great recognition of what our donors already know - that our foundation is transparent in that we do everything we can to ensure dollars go directly to support lifesaving research," he said.
If an award had been handed out for Best Analogy, it should have gone to Dr. Brad Nelson, director of the B.C. Cancer Agency's Deeley Research Centre here, for how he described the patient navigation research model.
"It's a bit like online banking, and don't we all love that - unlike the old days when the bank might not be open," said Nelson, who experienced the unsettling "gap" between diagnosis and treatment when he learned his father had cancer.
The ideal, he said, would be to "log onto an online portal that would give you information relevant to your disease. You could do scheduling, track your progress and read about your oncology team."
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