Strides in Sarcoma Research

Ron Daye and Rob Pearson join forces to give back and honor loved ones

Photograph of Ron Daye and Rob Pearson by Colin Way.

Calgarians Rob Pearson and Ron Daye are passionate fundraisers and donors — individually, the two men have raised significant funds for new cancer research and treatment. This summer, the pair made the decision to join forces to considerably expand their fundraising impact. Pearson and Daye created a strategic partnership to increase awareness about — and fund research for — sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that attacks the connective tissues.

Both Pearson and Daye have lost loved ones to the disease. Pearson’s wife, Catherine, died of muscle tissue uterine cancer in 2009. Daye’s son, Cameron, died of spindle cell sarcoma, a connective-tissue cancer characterized by under-the-skin tumours, in 2014. After their respective losses, both men were inspired to give back and independently approached the Alberta Cancer Foundation to discuss fundraising frameworks.

In honour of Catherine, Pearson, a retired land man and former owner of Pearson Resources Ltd., held the Catherine Pearson Charity Rodeo, alongside his family, from 2009 to 2014 at the Wild West Event Centre in Calgary. Approximately 2,000 annual attendees enjoyed contests like cow riding and goat dressing (youngsters trying to put t-shirts on goats). A total of $500,000 was generated from silent auctions, team fees and donations. This money became the principal for the Catherine M. Pearson Studentship in Sarcoma Research.

When Cameron died, Daye, who is the president and chief executive officer of Rangeland Engineering, donated $1.5 million over three years to create the Cameron C. Daye Cancer Research Clinical Fellowship. Since 2014, an additional $80,000 has been raised annually at the Cameron Daye Memorial Golf Invitational in Kananaskis, boosting the principal to almost $2 million.

Since their inception, five per cent of both funds has been divested annually for cancer research.

In 2013, when Cameron’s wife, Elizabeth, was investigating collaborative fundraising options, she met Pearson and introduced him to her father-in-law.

Since then, the two men have connected for the odd lunch, beer or coffee to discuss sarcoma research. One year ago, during one of those conversations, a light bulb went on — what would happen if they pooled their funds?

In the summer of 2019, they entered into a new agreement with the Alberta Cancer Foundation with the creation of the Cameron Daye and Catherine Pearson Sarcoma Fellowship Fund. Valued at approximately $2.7 million, the fund will be put toward groundbreaking sarcoma research initiatives. Funds will be spent on projects in Alberta — one of the first is immunotherapy treatment research, conducted by Dr. Michael Monument at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine — across Canada and abroad. Pearson and Daye will receive annual updates about who has been selected for the fund, what the research is about and what the results are.

“I am looking forward to some serious research being done,” says Pearson.

“Sarcoma represents only one per cent of cancers, but 15-20 per cent of cancers in young adults under the age of 35,” adds Daye. “Once you start telling that story, it is easier to generate the support.”

The goal is for the fund to reach up to $20 million in value — Pearson and Daye hope to attract other generous donors to make this possible. That way, more money will be available for annual distribution, more donors will be committed to the cause and more researchers will be able to investigate treatment and curative solutions for sarcoma.

Pearson and Daye would like to thank the Foundation, staff at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and all research fellows for their dedication to the fund and its vast potential. They look forward to spearheading progressive research that will improve the lives of individuals experiencing sarcoma — an honourable legacy in memory of Catherine and Cameron.

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