COVID-19: Canadian Cancer Society prepares to lose millions in donations
MONTREAL -- The Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month is just around the corner, but due to the spread of COVID-19 around the world, the organization has been forced to cancel its numerous country-wide fundraising campaigns.
That means a loss of about $20 million for cancer research and support for patients.
“The timing of this is in our biggest fundraising season because it’s our fundraising and awareness month,” explains Andrea Seale, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society. “It’s a really crucial time.”
The 2020 Daffodil Ball in Montreal -- one of the organization’s biggest events -- was expected to be held April 23 at Windsor Station.
The loss from that event? $2.3 million.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking to not be able to be out in the community at this time, but everyone wants to make sure we take care of each other’s health,” Seale said. “We hope on the other side of this, people will get involved again and give again and help those who are very vulnerable.”
In addition to the donations lost, Seale notes the organization has incurred a significant financial loss as the ball, and many other events, had to be cancelled at the last minute.
“Many of the people who work for us are small businesses and caterers and are having their own livelihood impact,” she notes. “Some sponsors have said, ‘Keep my donation; keep the sponsorship money; use it.’”
Since 1994, the ball has raised $35.2 million to benefit the Canadian Cancer Society. It is considered the most successful cancer-related fundraising gala in Canada.
PATIENTS AT RISK
For cancer thrivers like Mei-Lin Yee, who lives with a rare type of breast cancer, the cancellation of the Daffodil Ball is devastating. Research with that money could have funded a cure for her illness.
“I worry about the Canadian Cancer Society not being able to maintain programs for cancer patients when we need it most,” she tells CTV News. “The donations generated help all Quebecers living with cancer all year long. Particularly during stressful times like this, the anxiety levels of people living with cancer skyrocket. If donations drop, then supporting these people becomes much harder to do.”
Seale says she wants to remind Canadians that people living with a cancer diagnosis have compromised immune systems and are therefore at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
“They also need the health care system to be there for them, for treatment and care, so there’s a lot of anxiety, she said. “We are hearing from patients that there’s a lot of anxiety about, ‘Will my treatments be postponed?’”
MORE THAN JUST FUNDRAISING
Seale notes not only are fundraising efforts being affected, but so are the many services provided by the organization.
“We’ve had to cut occupancy in our lodges in half because people share rooms,” she tells CTV News. “So, some people are not going to have the accommodation support when they come for treatment.”
In addition, the organization’s driver program has been stunted as many of the volunteers are seniors, who are being asked to stay indoors.
Seale notes research and clinical trials could also be put on hold to allow hospitals and health care workers to focus on treating people with the virus.
During the April campaign, about 30,000 volunteers usually go out into the community to collect donations in exchange for flowers and pins.
“We’ve asked that all those people follow the advice of our public health authorities to stay home and respect social distancing,” Seale said. “We’ve cancelled all those activities.”
In an effort to keep some fundraising efforts going, Seale says the organization has created a digital daffodil that people can share on social media.
“We’re also really asking that people respect the advice that’s being given by public health officials that literally will save lives,” Seale said. “I know people will come back and get involved with the community again.”
Anyone willing to donate, has questions about cancer, is looking for resources or needs any kind of emotional support is encouraged to call 1-888-939-3333 or go to cancer.ca
Anyone concerned about their health or who have symptoms associated with COVID-19 -- coughing, fever and difficulty breathing -- should call the Info-Coronavirus phone line at 1-877-644-4545.