On February 4, 2023, the Huntsville and surrounding community gathered at the Active Living Centre in an extraordinary show of support for Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka, in honour of World Cancer Day, and to celebrate receiving a $63,700 Resilient Communities Fund Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).
Those in attendance at the event included staff and supporters of Enliven Cancer Care, MP of Parry-Sound Muskoka Scott Aitchison, MPP of Parry-Sound Muskoka Graydon Smith, representative of the OTF and Charles Cooper, volunteer for the grant review team of Parry-Sound Muskoka, Mayor of Huntsville Nancy Alcock, and Deputy-Mayor Dan Armour.
“Enliven is about community, it’s about bringing people together from all walks of life… we can all learn from one another and support each other,” said Carrie Campbell, Chair of the Board of Directors for Enliven Cancer Care.
The event began with multiple speeches from various members of Enliven Cancer Care and the Muskoka community, followed by a social hour with light snacks and refreshments. Cat Brown, former board member of Enliven commenced the speeches by offering a brief history and overview of the essence of Enliven, which was founded in 2016 by Allie Chisholm-Smith and the late Joanne McLean, who passed away from cancer in 2018.
“[It was started] in response to a need to provide help that was previously unavailable in Muskoka, help that would take the form of programs, information, and community that would enable those with a cancer diagnosis to live more full and engaged lives,” Brown said.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the lives of so many and greatly impacted the way that organizations such as Enliven were able to operate. It prevented Enliven from being able to hold in-person programming and severely limited the ability to raise funds that enabled them to offer these programs. The Resilient Community Fund was created by the OTF in response to this impact the pandemic caused, with hopes that the funds would assist the organization in providing the critical support that the community needs. The grant was used to hire two new positions, one in Fund Development/Social Marketing and one in Volunteer Recruitment and Training.
“The work that Enliven does is so very important; I am so grateful that our government could support these wonderful activities and say to every one of you to reach out when support is needed,” Smith said. “When we get together and work together, lives are changed.”
The OTF is an agency of the Government of Ontario. It’s been a leading granting foundation for the past forty years. Cooper stated that its sole purpose is to help local not-for-profit-led community engagements, and “it’s really to make sure that we have strong communities.”
“Being awarded the Resilient Communities Fund was just the breath of fresh air that Enliven needed,” Campbell said.“Thanks to the grant, we will have the ability to provide quality programming for the community…”
From 2016 to 2020, Enliven operated as a not-for-profit organization and in 2020, they became a registered charity, which allowed them to apply for government grants such as the OTF grant.
“The work that Enliven does is the kind of thing that makes a community a community. It shows the kind of support that Huntsville I think is particularly known for,” Aitchison said. “I did a trip across the country this year and it was always a special thing to say I’m from Huntsville because of things like this.”
Campbell emphasized the impact Enliven can have on the lives of those who have been touched by cancer, whether it’s someone with a diagnosis, their family, friends, or caregivers. She also noted that Enliven is not only about providing programs, it’s also about creating opportunities for those in the community to come together, share stories, and support one another through a shared experience.
“Cancer is so prevalent, yet despite being so widespread, when we hear that diagnosis, we immediately feel alone. The studies are clear: community and connection with others improve our health and helps with healing,” Campbell stated. “Joanne [McLean] would say ‘I want to normalize the journey, I’m more than a cancer patient. I want to live fully, while at the same time deal with this disease.’”
Every year since its inception, Enliven Cancer Care holds an event on February 4 to recognize World Cancer Day, which was born in 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer in Paris, France. In 2019, Enliven hosted a gala and silent auction at Canvas Brewery in Huntsville and since 2020, has been hosting virtual silent auctions. This year marks the first in-person event since the pandemic began. Campbell says these events are extremely important because they provide an opportunity for reflection and to spread awareness about Enliven’s services.
In attendance at the event was also David McLean, former husband of Joanne McLean, board member of Enliven, and owner of Soapstones Natural Skincare, who presented Campbell with a $20,000 donation for Enliven. Both McLean and Campbell lost their spouses to cancer, which brought them together.
“My roots with this organization go back to the very beginning. Joanne McLean was my wife. She’d be very proud of what Enliven has become and all those who have contributed over the years and in the direction that the organization is now going,” McLean said.
The sale of all Enliven products at Soapstones go directly towards the donations that McLean and his team make to Enliven every year. The funds have significantly grown since the $2,500 donation six years ago, but McLean stated how he is doing it a little differently this year. $10,000 is an immediate donation and the remaining balance comes in the form of a challenge for any private sector organization in Muskoka to commit funds to support Enliven and he will match any funds donated up to $10,000.
Campbell concluded the event by expressing her thanks to the various volunteers, staff members, and community members that have been a part of Enliven’s efforts throughout the years. She thanked Enliven board members David McLean, Suzanne Riverin, Bryan Knappett, Deanna Lavigne, Alison Madeley, Angie Poulson, and Enliven’s two new staff members Andrea Johnston and Blair Douglas.
She also expressed her gratitude on behalf of Enliven towards anyone who has used any of the organization’s services.
“Quite frankly, it takes courage to show up for yourself, to try new things, to meet new people, to allow yourself to be vulnerable at a time when you might just be trying to hold it all together,” she said. “We see you, and we know that you have to be able to trust us in order to join Enliven and we take that responsibility very seriously. It’s our honour that you allow Enliven to take part in your lives.”
Enliven is always looking for volunteers and those interested can contact [email protected]
For more information on Enliven Cancer Care Muskoka, visit enlivenmuskoka.ca
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