By Darren Lum
When you go to the Dawson Hamilton Memorial Hockey Game this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the A.J. LaRue Arena you’ll be doing more than just be entertained by the Greater Metro Junior A Haliburton Wolves.
You’ll honour the memory of Dawson a boy who died too young from cancer but possessed great strength and courage in the face of it. You’ll also help the Haliburton-based charity Cottage Dreams Cancer Recovery Initiative. Their program enabled him and his family to take a break from the physical and emotional pain and heartache associated with cancer and its treatment in the summer of 2007 with its cottage lending opportunity for adults and children that started in 2003 by Haliburton cottager Seana O’Neill.
Proceeds from the admission the 50/50 draw and the Chuck-a-puck contest at the game will help Cottage Dreams continue its work. Dawson died from cancer at 10 in 2010. He would have been 15.
With his favourite colour being blue the team and the event organizers are asking people to wear blue as a show of solidarity. Dawson Hamilton T-shirts will be for sale. Colorado Avalanche centre Haliburton’s Matt Duchene who was a friend of Dawson’s and has his initials on his hockey sticks has donated an autographed Colorado Avalanche jersey for the event.
The Cottage Dreams program manager Debbie Farrell was very excited when she heard the Haliburton Wolves picked her charity for the Dawson Hamilton Memorial Hockey Game.
“It’s a local charity. It’s a local hockey team. It makes a good partnership for both” she said referring to the raised money and the increased awareness for her charity and the team.
Fundraisers for Cottage Dreams are essential to its operation that does not receive government funding she said.
This past year there were 198 people placed by Cottage Dreams. The average cost per placement is approximately $500 each she said.
“We just try and find every way we can to raise money” she said referring to her ongoing efforts to secure funds.
Farrell said Cottage Dreams operates on a “shoe string” budget and there is a constant effort to keep the charity at the forefront. She and one part-time employee are the only paid staff members.
Applicants for the program apply. Successful applicants and their families spend five days at a cottage for a chance to rest and rejuvenate from the treatments.
This break enables people to “just kind of take a breath of fresh air and be normal for a few days and spend some time with their families.”
There is also a residual economic benefit to Haliburton attributed to the placements.
“When we place an applicant on average they spend anywhere from $500 to a $1000 on gas groceries and restaurants sight-seeing and souvenirs” she said.
The program’s placements are made between the first Sunday of June to mid-December.
Most people request placements during the summer period which is between July and August and also the month of September.
Besides financial donations the public can help by spreading the word of the work of Cottage Dreams by dropping off pamphlets or brochures to hospitals and doctors or just letting people know.
More than 10000 applicants have been placed in the 12 years Cottage Dreams has operated.
Back in 1998 Farrell’s brother-in-law died from cancer within a month of being diagnosed in 1998.
It motivated her to help. She started with Cottage Dreams as a volunteer before assuming her current staff position seven years ago. Volunteers who she depends on for a variety of essential work for the program are the backbone of the organization she said.
Seeing the appreciation for the people and families she has helped personally place has driven her to continue her work with Cottage Dreams.
One example Farrell will never forget is how a Polish woman with cancer came to her after her placement to thank her in person.
The woman and her husband with their children came from Poland looking for a better life. Their challenges continued as the the mother came down with breast cancer.
It was awe-inspiring for her to see the reaction first hand.
“Just to see her face and know that we made a difference in their lives for a very brief time it makes it all worthwhile” she said.
See www.cottagedreams.ca for more information on the program or to apply and loan a cottage.