Over the past 20 years, the Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic, powered by a group of dedicated volunteers, sponsors and participants, has raised $2,695,000 for breast cancer services in the Northwest region. For Sue Childs, the 20th Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic reminds her of the great memories she made being a part of and chairing this fundraising curling bonspiel. It also revives the legacy of her late best friend, Linda Buchan, and strengthens her gratefulness to our community.
“Linda was an extremely dynamic, upbeat, marvelous person. She was always so positive,” Childs said of Linda Buchan, the founding member of the Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic. Linda had breast cancer three times and eventually passed away from the disease in December of 2002. “I will never forget my friend ‘Linda Lou’, and I am so glad that we can continue to celebrate her legacy with our bonspiel. Linda’s granddaughter now curls on our team and I can just imagine the smile on her grandmother’s face when Sydney steps onto the ice at the 20th Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic.”
In 2006, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre created The Linda Buchan Centre for Breast Screening and Assessment named in honour of Linda Buchan. Since then, the funds raised by approximately 275 women who participate in the Hope Classic each year have been donated to the centre. “We use ‘Raised in the North, Stays in the North’ as one of our slogans. We’re very proud of that,” says Childs.
The original goal of the first Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic held in 1997 was to raise $5,000 for the Breast Cancer Support Group. They raised $39,000. Now, with close to $3 million raised for breast cancer services, Childs is very humbled by what has been accomplished so far. When asked why she continues to run this event, she said, “I absolutely love doing it. It’s more about the fun of all the women coming together for a good cause. When I stand at the back of the curling club on Friday or Saturday night, and see all of the women having fun and raising money to fight this terrible disease, I think to myself ‘Wow’.”
Breast cancer affects 1 in 9 Canadian women. While the Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic primarily fundraises for The Linda Buchan Centre, where breast screening and assessment takes place, Childs also hopes to raise awareness for women’s health. “Every woman needs to be aware of their body and not be afraid to talk about their health with their family, friends or healthcare provider,” she advocates.
This year, the bonspiel’s slogan is ‘20 Years of Hope’ – a perfectly appropriate slogan for a bonspiel that brings hope to women across our region with breast imaging services, awareness, and a passionate spirit of camaraderie.
“This year we are hoping to have a full bonspiel with women committed to raising funds to beat this disease. We have been successful so far, and we can’t thank our sponsors or the women of Thunder Bay and our region enough. We organize it, but they really keep it going,” Childs said.
With memories of Linda and all the fun they had curling together, Childs reflects on what Linda would think of what has been accomplished to date. “I think Linda would be very impressed and proud of what we have done to help fight this disease. She is looking down on us saying ‘You go, girls!’.”
The Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic will take place from February 5th to 7th, 2016 at the Fort William Curling Club. For more information about the Bearskin Airlines Hope Classic, visit: www.bearskinairlineshopeclassic.com. For more information on breast cancer screening, visit: www.tbrhsc.net/cancerscreening