The Motivator

What started as a sports pool amongst friends became a fundraiser after the death of a dad

FATHER’S DAY: David Bouckhout wishes that his young son could have grown up with grandfather Leo Bouckhout in his life. But the loss of his father motivates David to give.
Photo by Chris Tait

Leo and David Bouckhout were as close as any father and son could hope to be. So when Leo died of melanoma (a cancer of the skin) on March 16, 2008, David was devastated. He went through a long period of mourning and questioning. Grief and mourning are typical after a loved one dies. Perhaps less typical is that it created in David a strong desire to do what he could to prevent others from going through the same experience. He wanted to try, in some meaningful way, to help find a cure for cancer while encouraging people to pay attention to the warning signs.

Leo was a successful businessman in the oil and gas sector; his consulting and training assignments took him to more than 20 countries on five continents. Despite living a healthy life, the removal and biopsy of a mole in the early 1990s confirmed melanoma. Follow-up tests suggested the cancer hadn’t spread to his organs or lymph nodes – that he was in the clear. Life went on and after the five-year mark post cancer had passed, the brush with the disease seemed distant.

In 2007 Leo discovered a lump under his arm, another test confirmed it was melanoma. Leo took treatment with interferon, which interferes with the growth and spread of melanoma. He was full of confidence again.

But after a vacation, he developed a bad chest infection, was admitted to Calgary’s Foothills Hospital where doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized to his lungs. He died four short weeks later – a shock for the close-knit family. And a wake-up call for son David, who now has an annual visit with a dermatologist.

The ordeal of losing a father who was also a close friend also caused David to do some serious thinking about cancer and how he could support research and public awareness about melanoma in particular.

Other cancers are better-known, he says, “and we need to make people aware that melanoma is much more prevalent than they think.”

Like many other Albertans, David and his family have donated to a number of deserving charities. “They come to the door and it’s hard to pick and choose,” he says. He still contributes to several causes, but he felt it important to direct his donations to a charity that concentrates on research and patient care, as well as raising awareness
for the cause.

Not surprising, he chose the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

At Leo’s Celebration of Life at Calgary’s First Alliance Church, his family encouraged friends, colleagues and extended family to donate to the Alberta Cancer Foundation in memory of Leo.

A thank-you note from the foundation made David realize that a small group of donors could raise a significant amount of money. He wondered if he could organize
further support.

His wedding to Kelly gave him another opportunity. The couple placed tent cards on each table at the reception. They noted that – in celebration of their joyous day and in remembrance of Leo, who would have loved to have been there – they had made a donation to the Alberta Cancer Foundation. And they invited others to do the same.
David Bouckhout didn’t stop there.

A commodity strategist for TD Securities, covering both hard and soft commodities, David specializes in the energy sector. Generating research and strategy on a variety of commodities for both internal and external clients requires deep concentration and the ability to work intently on risk analytics, marketing and trading, all with a focus on energy derivatives. But he also has a lighter, creative side.

As a young man, David performed with the Calgary Fiddlers and today plays several instruments, including the bass guitar he plays with a hard rock band. He is also a sports enthusiast and had, for a number of years, organized a small pool of friends and fellow sports lovers to bet on the winners of the NCAA March Madness tournament. (In this tournament, nearly 70 American college basketball teams compete for a spot in the semi-finals. It’s hugely popular among sports fans, and the subject of many pools.) The winner of David’s pool typically took home a nice cash prize and he wondered if he could promote his annual event as a charity fundraiser, with the winner donating a percentage of the prize to the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

The pool was typically held around the same time as the anniversary of Leo’s death, so it was an easy sell and David’s friends received the idea enthusiastically. It began with the 2009 tournament, the happy winner taking 50 per cent of the prize money and donating the other half to the Alberta Cancer Foundation for a tax receipt.

Last year the pool’s enrolment increased dramatically as family and friends and fellow workers at his TD Securities office got caught up in David’s passion to raise funds for cancer research. The fact that the event was fun helped the cause, and also honoured Leo’s memory.

More than 100 people participated and this year people are already emailing don’t-forget-me pleas to ensure they are included. Requests are coming from out of province and from the United States.

David has set a goal of doubling the entries and raising $5,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation this year.

David’s enthusiasm in supporting the Alberta Cancer Foundation has him thinking daily of the blessings he received in sharing his life with his father Leo. Since the birth of David’s son, he hopes to ensure other little boys have grandfathers in the picture.

A Method to his Madness

David Bouckhout’s March Madness basketball pool fundraiser started small. Although it’s still a very personal campaign, it has become a lot of work to administer. He says that if the pool gets much bigger he’ll need help organizing the event. He speculates that an online software tool might facilitate the growing demand.

Right now he’s also looking for other ways to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. He says that one idea he’d love to try is a Battle of the Bands benefit concert. The key is to keep the fun in fundraising. He encourages others to take up the cause by planning personal or corporate fundraising events, no matter how small they might be as starters (see page 7 for Five Fundraising Finds), or visit to get started.

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