Leaside resident Deanne Puder’s eyes teared up as she addressed nearly 400 people at Wilket Creek Park on Sept. 23 for Toronto’s ninth annual Bladder Cancer Canada Awareness Walk.
It was Puder’s first time organizing the walk in honour of her father, Ingo Puder, who died of bladder cancer in October 2017.
It was an emotional but successful day of fundraising, Puder said.
Taking on the huge task of running the event was her way of helping others affected by the disease, by doing more than serving coffee at BCC support group meetings as she had originally planned. Her sister Michelle helped with the event as well, having also held a yard sale the previous weekend to raise money for the cause.
“This was a project where I could … really make a difference to bladder cancer patients, survivors and help the families of people like us who have lost family members,” Puder said.
“It’s actually been healing, in a way.”
One of 20 walks across Canada, with about 4,000 people expected to participate nationwide, the Toronto event brought in over $140,000 in donations. In 2017, Bladder Cancer Canada raised over $600,000 through its awareness walks. The organization uses the money to fund support services for those affected by bladder cancer, as well as awareness and research efforts.
For Puder, the charity was the perfect opportunity to turn her family’s heartbreak into an opportunity to help others. As an open-minded, free-spirited man — and the “coolest dad that you could ever have,” as her sister put it — Ingo would have been proud of it.
Among the participants were the Lorusso family. Mike Lorusso won his fight with bladder cancer five years ago after he was diagnosed in spring of 2012. His wife Grazia said their family has participated in the Toronto walk for four years because of their belief in BCC’s mission and the good the charity has done for those battling bladder cancer.
“They’re doing something for people to have a chance [at life],” Grazia said.
“It’s like hope.”
BCC board of directors chair Ferg Devins said that while the charity has made great strides in supporting bladder cancer patients, raising awareness and financing research, there needs to be much more funding in order to achieve its goals in fighting the disease.
It’s the fourth most common disease in men (12th for women), with over 80,000 people suffering from the disease and 9,000 diagnosed annually, but bladder cancer is 20th in terms of funding, Devins said.
Devins encourages those looking to donate or learn more about the disease, to visit bladdercancercanada.org.