“Initially, we simply wanted to get more women involved in golf. We knew that there was about a 3:1 participation difference in men and women playing the game, and we felt the need to create a platform specifically for women that would be appealing and motivate more of them to play. So out of that, Golf Fore the Cure was born.” – Jeff Thompson, Chief Sport Officer, Golf Canada
That was 12 years ago. In 2006, Golf Canada partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society to support the Society’s fight against breast cancer. Since then, Golf Fore the Cure has become Golf Canada’s signature charity event, raising over $4 million for the Society’s breast cancer research and support programs. From east to west and as far north as the Northwest Territories, thousands of female golfers have been making a huge difference in the lives of Canadians affected by breast cancer, one round at a time.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Golf Canada’s partnership with the Society and, as in previous years, the company expects to see more women participating in the program.
“While the philanthropic focus of the program underpins its success, we haven’t lost sight of the goal of getting more women to play golf,” says Jeff Thompson, Golf Canada’s Chief Sport Officer. “In fact, more women playing translates into even more funds generated for breast cancer research, awareness and support. This year, our goal is for 14,000 women to raise $500,000. Ten years championing such a worthy cause is quite remarkable. It also says a lot about the mutuality of the relationship we share with the Canadian Cancer Society. And, of course, the support of Subaru as presenting sponsor of the program cannot be overstated. Subaru is as passionate about health and well-being as both Golf Canada and the Society are. And so seeing an alignment in terms of shared values, they ‘came out swinging’ from the outset.”
Golf Fore the Cure has grown from just over 50 events in 2006 to nearly 180 in 2014. Each year, site coordinators invest many hours in planning, coordinating and hosting local golf events. Eleanor Rudd, of Southside Golf Course in Manitoba, speaks fondly of her experience as a Golf Fore the Cure site coordinator. “It’s fun and inspiring and a wonderful opportunity to do something good for others. You get to reconnect with old friends, meet new ones and have a good time golfing and raising money for a cause that is dear to so many women. It’s a lot of work to plan and run an event but Golf Canada makes it easy by providing all the tools you need to be successful.”
While the women who participate get involved for various reasons, they share a common goal of defeating breast cancer. Their hard work and dedication has had a tremendous impact on the scientific world and on the lives of thousands of Canadian women, their families, friends and caregivers in communities across Canada. Take, for example, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer, which today stands at 88%. This is a significant improvement over survival rates in the 1980s of just over 70%.
While we celebrate this achievement, some types of the disease – such as triple negative breast cancer – remain hard to treat. Dr Shawn Li, of Western University in London, Ontario, is studying ways to overcome chemotherapy resistance in women with triple negative breast cancer. His work, funded by the Society, could lead to better outcomes for these women.
“I’m extremely grateful to the Canadian Cancer Society for funding my research with an Innovation Grant,” says Dr Li. “While, in general, survival rates for breast cancer are high, it’s important to focus on a breast cancer that is more difficult to treat and affects many young women.”
Golf Canada – and all the women who’ve made Golf Fore the Cure the success it is each year – can be proud of their invaluable contribution to the advancements made in breast cancer research.
But the story doesn’t end there. Breast cancer survivors, like Catherine Coulson, can attest to the Society’s community support programs, which provide the help and encouragement needed to cope with a breast cancer diagnosis.
Catherine shared her story at the 2013 Golf Fore the Cure National Event. “My cancer journey started after I found a lump in my breast. This was followed by biopsy, surgery and 6 months of chemotherapy. I was scared. I didn’t know where to turn. When I was in the hospital recovering from my surgery, one of the nurses asked me if I would like a visit from a volunteer from the Canadian Cancer Society. She said they have a program called Reach to Recovery and a volunteer who was a breast cancer survivor would come to visit me if I wanted. I jumped at the opportunity. I couldn’t remember knowing anyone who had ‘survived’ cancer!”
“My Reach to Recovery volunteer came to my home and brought me a care package of a couple of temporary prostheses, a little cushion for under my arm where nodes had been removed and some exercises for me to practise. She told me about her journey and that she was cancer-free for 7 years! Slowly, it dawned on me that I too could be a survivor.”
Programs like the Peer Support Service, Community Services Locator, Cancer Information Service and transportation and wig programs offer physical, psychological and emotional support for people along their cancer journey.
Pamela Fralick, the Society’s President and CEO, captures the essence of the Golf Canada-Canadian Cancer Society partnership.
“We cannot fulfil our mission without funding from supporters like Golf Canada, but our partnership extends far beyond the dollars. It’s about building awareness and empowering Canadian women. It’s about changing lives and attitudes. We are thrilled that Golf Canada came alongside us, and 10 years later the Golf Fore the Cure program is still gaining momentum.”
“It’s a winning strategy for both Golf Canada and the Society – one that we’re extremely proud of and tremendously grateful for. So, thank you Golf Canada for sharing our vision and having the foresight to step forward. Thank you to every site coordinator for their labour of love in dedicating time and effort to host an event. Thanks to every golfer for every round played these 10 years and for mobilizing your network of family, friends and acquaintances to donate to this worthy cause. And, of course, to lead sponsor – Subaru – whose investment in the program each year makes it all possible.”
You too can get involved and organize your own Golf Fore the Cure event to support the fight against breast cancer. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All funds raised through Golf Fore the Cure in Québec are donated to the Québec Breast Cancer Foundation