Tricia Johnston knows all to well how devastating cancer can be.
A detective with 22 Division, she was diagnosed in 2003 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same form of cancer that invaded her sister. After six months of chemotherapy and three months of radiation, Johnston has been cancer free since 2004.
She was just one of many officers on hand Wednesday, Jan. 23 at Yorkdale Shopping Centre for the 17th annual Cops for Cancer kick-off, which hopes to raise $45,000.
“I think it’s important to donate,” Johnston said, adding her mother battled breast cancer. “You are fundraising for research. Without funding for research we wouldn’t have proper treatment.”
Since 1999, Cops for Cancer has raised more than $750,000 in Toronto to support cancer research.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the first Cops for Cancer program started in 1994 when an Edmonton police officer with a shaved head posed for a picture with a young cancer patient. The officer wanted to support the boy, who was being ridiculed at school because of his hair loss. Other officers joined and Cops for Cancer was launched.
Since then, law enforcement and emergency services officers from across Canada have held Cops for Cancer fundraising events for the Canadian Cancer Society. Donations are used to fund cancer research as well as support programs and cancer prevention initiatives. To date, more than $54 million has been raised across the country.
New this year, there will be an added fundraising effort called Jail and Bait. Participants can decide to be placed in “jail” rather than clip their hair, and audience members will raise funds to bail them out.
Alexandra Connor, past participant and ambassador of Kids of Cops for Cancer, chopped off 10 inches of her hair and raised $3,500 last year in support of the cause.
The 11-year-old Bradford resident decided to get involved after her father, an OPP officer, told her of the initiative.
“It’s a really great cause because a lot of people are affected by cancer,” she said, adding the plan is to grow her hair this year and cut it next year.
Anthony Casalanguida, general manager of Yorkdale, said the mall has always had a positive relationship with Toronto Police’s 32 Division and is happy to support such a worthwhile cause.
Participants who register before March 1 will automatically be entered to win a $250 gift card for Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
The head-shaving event will take place at Yorkdale on April 13.
For information or to donate, visit www.cancer.ca