A Campaign With Heart

Peter Fargey’s experience with cancer was the inspiration for a campaign that has raised more than $1 million – and counting

These days, cancer survivor Peter Fargey feels like a million bucks – which is roughly the sum he and his company, ION Print Solutions, have raised for the Alberta Cancer Foundation over the last three years. Since 2010, the Nisku-based printing company has been involved in a summertime matching gift campaign, matching public donations to the foundation of $50,000 or less.

Cheque Mates: Peter Fargey (left) with Daryl Silzer of the Alberta Cancer Foundation and Craig McEwen of ION Print Solutions.

To put this in to perspective: the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s summer campaigns have historically netted $30,000 per year, while the ION Print Solutions campaign has netted an average of $350,000.

The campaign’s success might stem from its source. Back in 2010, Fargey – one of ION’s founders – began suffering from persistent gut pain that wasn’t eased by the usual remedies, like dietary changes or Tylenol. While he was on holiday, the pain grew worse – severe enough that he had a hunch it wasn’t a normal stomach ache. “We were in the States at the time,” Fargey says, “and when I got home, I went to see the family doctor.”

Peter Fargey’s cancer puzzled his oncologist. “It was so rare that he didn’t know how to treat it,” Fargey says.

Fargey’s physician ordered tests that revealed he had cancer. “I think it’s always in the back of your mind, but when they found it, of course, it was a shock to be told all of a sudden that you have cancer,” he says. For that matter, it wasn’t just any cancer, but a rare cancer in his duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). In fact, it puzzled his oncologist, Dr. Michael Sawyer. “It was so rare that he didn’t know how to treat it,” Fargey explains.

Erring on the side of caution, Sawyer chose a treatment that involved surgery (the removal of Fargey’s duodenum, bile duct and half of his pancreas) and an entire year of chemotherapy. “Thankfully, Dr. Sawyer decided to treat it very aggressively and thankfully, it worked,” says Fargey. The staff at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, where he received his treatments, made the experience much more tolerable, he says: “The people at the Cross were magnificent, they really were. Let’s just say they’re very good at what they do.”

At the same time as Fargey was receiving his treatments, ION Print Solutions was greening its operations: “We made equipment investments, building and lighting changes – things to reduce the amount of water and power we use,” explains managing partner Craig McEwen. Cancer, which is increasingly linked to environmental pollutants, was also on his mind, thanks to Fargey’s experiences. He wondered if perhaps the company could publicize its new environmental initiatives while at the same time, raise money for cancer research, patient care, screening and prevention programs. He thought Fargey could be the face of the campaign.

Rare Bird: Always one to do it his way, Peter Fargey’s cancer was so unusual his doctors weren’t sure of the best treatment approach at first.

McEwen approached his business partner to see if he’d be up for telling his story in a big way. Fargey didn’t hesitate: “I bought in right away,” he says. “I thought it was a great idea.” ION approached the Alberta Cancer Foundation and together they launched a campaign in the summer of 2010, a few months before Fargey’s chemo ended. Donations began pouring in and it became apparent that the campaign resonated with Albertans.

McEwen thinks the combination of his colleague’s story, the environ-mental message, and the fact that ION was helping the public leverage their donation dollars, appealed to people. “It was incredible how many calls we had from people considering donating to make sure we would match what they donated,” he says.

The third campaign officially ended in August 2012, but the company looks forward to doing it again next summer. The fourth year of the campaign will be similar to the look and feel of the first three, but Ewan hopes to recruit other companies to take part, as well.

October 2012 marked two years since Fargey’s last chemo treatment and he’s happy to report that he’s officially free of cancer. However, like anyone who has endured the treatments, he’ll continue to get tested regularly – every six months – for several years. “Everyone hopes to get to five years,” he says, and all signs point to a good long-term prognosis, especially after his most recent tests. And while Fargey’s been the face of the campaign for three years running, he’s more than happy to keep telling his story. “As long as they think it’ll continue to raise money, why not?”

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