Allan Small was a longtime Montreal dentist, but above all, he was a loving father of four.

“There are three boys, I'm the only girl, I'm third down and I'm the classic daddy's little girl, said his daughter Heidi Small.

“My dad was the life of the room, the life of the party.”

That fun-loving nature is what prompted Small to retire at 70 to enjoy time with his wife and 10 grandchildren.

“He took one trip to Japan with my mom … came back from his travels and in the middle of the night, woke my mom with a seizure,”

An MRI scan revealed the worst – he had a stage four glioblastoma brain tumour. Small had surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

It’s stories like his that inspired a group of people to organize the “Brilliant Night” event, a fundraiser to raise awareness about brain tumours and support the latest in brain tumour research at the Neuro.

The three treatments Small received have led to increased survival rates in many patients over the last decade, from less than a year to an average of 18 months, with some patients living beyond three to five years.

“At the same time, all three of those are certainly not curative, there's a range of survivals and we have a lot of work to do,” said chief of neurosurgery Dr. Kevin Petrecca.

Progress has been slow but Dr. Petrecca says more recently, DNA sequencing technology has created an avenue filled with new research possibilities.

“We're really at the level of understanding the causes of these cancers and with that information you can learn to develop targeted therapies.

But with the cuts in government funding, researchers need help. And that - has become Heidi Small's mission.

“That's what I want to do. I want to help change the landscape for brain tumour research,” she said.

The inaugural event, of which Small is an organizer, is scheduled to take place Oct. 21 at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. It is sold out.

“To have a large group of people stand up and say we're not going to accept the status quo and we're going to do something about it is exciting for us and it's inspirational - it pushes us to work even harder,” Dr. Petrecca said.

Heidi Small's father died five months ago, one year after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. His little girl is determined to leave a legacy in his name.

“The end was very difficult, but this was my way … to honour him,” she said.