In April, Manitoba Blue Cross kicked off our Stronger Together initiative in support of CancerCare Manitoba Foundation.
"The goal of Stronger Together is to come together as an organization to help fight cancer and show our support to those who have been affected," says Debbie Rehm, Senior Community & Events Coordinator and chair of the Stronger Together committee.
The event started in the Manitoba Blue Cross staff lounge, with a presentation hosted by Power 97's Joe Aiello.
"Two of our speakers were both cancer survivors and Manitoba Blue Cross employees, so it really hit home to hear them share their stories and experiences with us," Debbie says. "It was definitely a powerful and emotional kickoff, but having Joe Aiello as the emcee brought laughter and fun into the room exactly when it was needed."
For the rest of the day, employees participated in Stronger Together activities, with all proceeds going toward CancerCare Manitoba Foundation.
To raise funds, staff members donated money to dress casual for the week. Employees also donated homemade treats and crafts for a bake/craft sale.
"It was totally amazing to see how passionate the employees were to raise money for this cause," Debbie says.
Six employees raised pledges to shave their heads, and we were thankful to have hairdressing students from MC College and Rita Lehmann from Salon POP volunteer to do the honours.
The employee who raised the most pledges was Rita Dzioba, Supervisor, Agreement Services and cancer survivor.
"The effects of cancer and cancer treatments aren't visible, especially years later," she says. "Everyone I know still suffers from the effects of the treatment."
"Shaving my head was a visible acknowledgement... an acknowledgement of our experience, what some are going through and remembering those no longer with us."
Manitoba Blue Cross continued to accept donations throughout May and into June, with all funds being directed through CancerCare's Challenge for Life, a yearly 20 km walk or 200-minute workout in support of cancer research.
The Challenge for Life was on Saturday, June 8, and a dozen Manitoba Blue Cross employees and family members took to the pavement to show their Stronger Together spirit.
"The walk really was a challenge," says Ryann McCorkell, Social Media Strategist. "I'm not sure that I've ever walked 20 km in one go before."
The last few kilometers were the toughest, Ryann says. "You're tired and sore, but also so close — you know you don't want to stop."
But at the end of the day, it was worth it, she adds.
"Crossing the finish line was a wonderful experience," Ryann says. "The band was playing, and we were surrounded by volunteers and family members clapping and cheering for us. Ringing the bell at the end, I was filled with both relief that I'd finished and the satisfaction of knowing I did it for a good cause."
In total, Manitoba Blue Cross team members raised over $20,000 for CancerCare Manitoba Foundation.
"It goes to show that we are truly one big family," says Debbie Rehm. "We support each other, and we work together to support our community. Every employee has been touched by cancer in one way or another, including myself, and this is what brings the passion for us to come together and be Stronger Together in the fight against cancer."
To learn more about CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, including how to donate, visit their website.