A community is most in unison when it shares its heart, and sometimes, its pumpkins as well.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre (GBCSC) is holding a “Paint the Town Pink!” fundraiser by offering painted pumpkins for $20 purchase each in its Home of Hope location at 45 Edward Street in Penetanguishene.
“Our centre right now is full of about 200 pink and purple painted pumpkins, decorated and painted all by volunteers, and there’s 100 of them out in the community already,” said Eric Walter, executive director of the GBCSC. “We are selling these, and all the proceeds go towards the support services we offer.
“It raised about $10,000 last year, and $10,000 goes a long way for cancer support.”
The Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre Home of Hope was built on lands donated by the town of Penetanguishene in 2018, and has since become a central pillar supporting those affected by cancer within North Simcoe, through psychosocial well-being services.
“Everything that we do at the Cancer Support Centre is driven by our mission,” said Walter. “That mission is to provide emotional, physical, social, spiritual support, information and education as a compliment to the medical system for people affected by cancer.”
For some, living through cancer is a lonely process. It’s for that reason which the GBCSC is open to all individuals, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic situation.
“One of the most important things is to feel like they are understood and have people who can relate to what they’re going through,” Walter explained. “Immediately, those are the first steps, and from there we’re here to support them in other ways, connect them with other services, resources, programs, information -- it just goes on from there.
"We really try to tailor our services to the requests of our members, so if there is something we can’t or currently do not offer, we follow up on it.”
The GBCSC is currently open six days a week with the Saturday available for programming, both indoor and outdoor. A proposed grant application to the town of Penetanguishene was recently given a green light to begin looking into an adjacent Garden of Hope as an extension to the Home of Hope, with the intent to begin construction starting next year.
“Currently, we offer programming indoors and outdoors, just because of the environment and the reality, and we want to be cognizant of the fact that not all of our members are comfortable coming inside yet. We deal with a population who is vulnerable, immunocompromised, going through treatments. “
Funding for the GBSCS is entirely through the generosity of community, fundraising activities, donations and grants as a charitable organization. Volunteers are one of the most important aspects and are constantly required, according to Walter.
“We always have a need for volunteers,” said Walter. ““It’s slowed down a little bit because of COVID, and there’s not been as much member interaction with our volunteers, but there’s always other things that we can use volunteers for.”
Rough days are inevitable when dealing with cancer, but there can be good days as well.
“A good day right now is heading out -- either downtown Midland or Penetang or within the residential streets -- and seeing our pink painted pumpkins on doorsteps and in business windows, and knowing we are helping to bring the community together to support those going through cancer,” said Walter. “That’s one example of a good day.
“A good day is having a member reach out to tell us how helpful a simple phone call was to them, or attending a weekly yoga class was, or knowing that we were able to help facilitate a relationship that helped them in their healing. That’s a very good day for us.
“And every day that we’re here and able to continue to offer services is another good day.”
For more information on the Paint the Town Pink! campaign, contact the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (705) 549-6444.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca