By: Jennifer Friesen
Despite the rain clouds that loomed over their heads and the possibility of showers, 175 people made their way to the Neighbours Helping Neighbours event in Calgary’s Varsity neighbourhood on June 18, 2022.
Luckily, the sun kept shining over the Varsity Community Association, and visitors were surrounded by the buzz of conversations, music and the laughter of children getting their faces painted. Along with all the food and activity, these neighbours donated money to help low-income Albertans diagnosed with cancer.
This was the first annual Neighbours Helping Neighbours block party, organized with the AGAT Foundation to help raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Patient Financial Assistance Program. The program offers financial aid to Albertans in need who are facing a cancer diagnosis so they can focus on their treatment and care. Notable community members from Varsity were key in making this a success, including support from Clayton and Linda Woitas, Mike and Judy Peacock, Scott and Barb Henderson, and John DeSanti, founder of the AGAT Foundation.
“The program just touches everyone’s heartstrings because we live in a world where we have the scientific research, evidence and capabilities in terms of treatment and opportunities to recover from a cancer diagnosis,” says Marissa Reckmann, CEO of AGAT Laboratories and director of the AGAT Foundation. “But the stark reality is that some individuals diagnosed with cancer suffer the added financial stresses of lost employment income and costs of basic life essentials, such as transportation, child care, food and other life necessities, while undergoing treatment … [The block party is] really about neighbourly support in helping to remove as many barriers as possible.”
This grassroots community event is a part of AGAT Laboratories’ long-standing support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Patient Financial Assistance Program, which all began with its Charity Classic golf tournament. The inaugural tournament was in 2005 and was created in memory of Don LaBerge, a respected chemist from Envirotest Laboratories who passed away from cancer that same year. Kham Lin of K’Prime Technologies started the tournament in honour of LaBerge, and was later joined by Tom Crist, formerly of EECOL Electric, who had lost his own wife, Janice E. Crist, to cancer. Tom and Kham, along with their families and friends, ran the tournament together with Alberta Cancer Foundation until 2022, when John DeSanti of AGAT committed the resources of the AGAT Foundation in the hopes of increasing exposure and fundraising.
In 2022, the AGAT Foundation’s tournament, raffle and Neighbour Day event raised $650,000 before expenses. The success allowed the Alberta Cancer Foundation to raise its allotment of funds to the Patient Financial Assistance Program from $1 million to $1.5 million. Reckmann emphasizes that this fundraising initiative is about bringing the community together to give back what they can — even small donated amounts can make a big difference.
“It doesn’t have to be millions — every dollar really does matter,” says Reckmann. “The big hope is that, in 2023, we can encourage many more individuals, businesses and communities to participate, not just within Calgary, but in communities all across Alberta. With the support of more Albertans who know full well our rural heritage of supporting our neighbours in times of need, the goal is to increase the amount raised once again.”
Looking forward, Reckmann says, “AGAT Foundation hopes the 2023 Charity Classic and its raffles and block parties expand to other communities, helping us raise more financial support all the while enjoying getting together with friends and neighbours across Alberta’s communities.”
For more information on the event, visit agatfoundation.com.
About AGAT Laboratories and The AGAT Foundation
AGAT Laboratories provides laboratory services around the world. The company has participated in charitable endeavours since its founding in 1979, so the creation of its charity, the AGAT Foundation, was a natural progression of this work. The AGAT Foundation operates in communities across the country with the goal to “unite people who share a common direction in building, creating and healing through both science and scientific technologies aiding in the betterment of society.”