Sherwood Park couple Donald and Rita Bosch’s volunteer career with the Alberta Cancer Foundation began more than two decades ago.
After golfing in the tournament for a few years, the Edmonton-area businessman convinced his wife to volunteer, and the rest, as they say, is history.“It has become our annual event,” says Rita. “It was so much fun and we met a lot of friends. Each year, it is just like meeting family over again.”
The Cross Cancer tournament isn’t the only commitment the couple, who are now retired, have made in their cancer fundraising. Over the years, Donald and Rita have sponsored, golfed in and volunteered for several other golf tournaments that benefit the Alberta Cancer Foundation, including the Don Andrews Memorial Golf Tournament, which wrapped up its 10th and final season this year; the Boston Pizza Golf Classic; and the Uniglobe One Travel tournaments, which have brought golfers to Mexico for the past six years in a unique fundraising opportunity.
All told, the couple has helped raise between $1.2 and $1.3 million per year for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. “It’s wonderful,” says Donald, noting it’s great to know everyone is involved in the tournaments to have a good time and raise money for a worthy cause. “You walk away meeting good people. And you walk away with a good feeling in your heart.”
That’s when Donald entered the Cross Cancer Institute Golf Classic, which recently celebrated its 27th anniversary of raising funds for cancer research and medical equipment.
But the couple doesn’t reserve their volunteerism only for golf tournaments. As part of a network of volunteers, they assist at numerous Alberta Cancer Foundation fundraisers every year, including concerts, and are thrilled to see their work pay off. “It’s just a good feeling to know how many people out there give out of the goodness of their heart,” says Rita.
COMMITTED COUPLE: Donald and Rita Bosch pose for photos during a day at Disneyland in California.
The couple’s commitment to fighting cancer has roots that go back decades. It all began in 1957, when Rita, then just four years old, began to complain of leg pain so severe that it kept her up at night. She recalls her dad rocking her to sleep because the pain was so upsetting, but her small-town doctor attributed it to growing pains.
In what proved to be a lucky occurrence, Rita’s dad brought her along when he visited a doctor in Edmonton. The checkup ended with the preschooler being admitted into the hospital for three months after doctors discovered a bone tumour in her leg. Rita remembers little of the ordeal, but she does recall her mom staying with her in the hospital. She also remembers three other children suffering from cancer in the ward. “My mom kept in contact with them, and I was the only one left by the time I was 12,” she says.
Rita said the ordeal included surgery and, afterwards, numerous checkups to ensure she was cancer-free. “Early detection [was] key,” she says. She is adamant that her personal experience with the disease hasn’t hampered her: “I have done 11 marathons,” says the proud mother of two and grandmother of three. “Every time I have done a marathon, I say ‘Thank you legs for letting me do it.’ ”
Donald gets emotional when he speaks about the mark the cancer left behind. “She has this scar on her leg an inch wide and eight inches long,” he says. “It’s the most beautiful scar in the world.”
Still, that’s not the only experience the couple has had with cancer. Rita’s mom died of cancer, and Donald lost his best friend to prostate cancer in 1999. “That’s why we pushed a little harder to donate our time – not just because of people who are special to us, but because of everyone out there,” says Donald. “If we can save one person per year, it’s worth it.”
Being an avid golfer with 38 years of experience, it was a natural fit for Donald to enter the golf tournaments, but what kept both him and Rita involved was the knowledge of where their money was going. Over the years, they have helped raise money to purchase equipment and fund world-class cancer research and treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute, which both Don and Rita consider one of the best cancer treatment facilities in North America. They have also been privileged to see the groundbreaking technology available at the facility and speak with the doctors and researchers who are making a difference in cancer patients’ lives.
“That’s the best part, seeing the technology first-hand,” says Rita, noting the golf tournaments often include a presentation showcasing technology and breakthroughs at the Cross Cancer Institute. Both Donald and Rita have come to admire those professionals, both through their volunteering and personal experiences. “It takes special people,” says Rita. “Watching all those nurses and doctors care for our loved ones, it is very difficult, but it is also heartwarming.”
Although Rita and Donald have both suffered loss to cancer, they remain optimistic about future treatments, such as the specialized equipment capable of finding minute tumours in patients at the Cross Cancer. “This machine is incredible,” says Donald, about the PET-CT that can detect cancer in its minute form and scan more patients than ever before.
Thrilled with the outcome of their volunteerism, the couple is committed to carrying on.
“We don’t know how or who it has impacted,” says Rita. “You hope it’s not personal, but you never know who it will impact, so we just keep doing it.” They encourage others to volunteer for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. “Pick up the phone or go on the Internet, because they have so many events,” says Rita. “They are constantly looking for people to come out and help. It might be something as simple as sitting at a table and giving information, or simply being present.”
“I have done a lot of volunteering … and this organization is one that you almost feel like you are getting back more than you are giving,” says Donald. “It’s very, very rewarding.”
The Alberta Cancer Foundation holds the annual Cross Cancer Institute Golf Classic, as well as many companion events across the province. For more information on the 2016 tournament, check in at albertacancer.ca.