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Looking back on 2020, looking forward to 2021

  December 28, 2020
If we could sum up 2020 in a single word at Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, it’s perseverance… Okay, maybe adaptation too.

The year began on a high note – we had just launched our new and improved website, released our Caregiver Handbook, and published our first Survival Report though the Brain Tumour Registry of Canada. Things were on the up-and-up in every regard.

Then… Well… you know the rest.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit just as we were getting ready for Brain Tumour Walk season, and suddenly all of our plans were thrown up in the air.

Virtual Brain Tumour Walk
The Virtual Brain Tumour Walk brought thousands of Canadians together June 27.

Overnight, our plans for 22 walks in cities across Canada were thrown into disarray. However, rather than cancel, we embraced these digital times and created one national event that saw all of Canada get together June 27.

The result was our first national Virtual Brain Tumour Walk, which saw more than 3,600 participants and raised more than $1.1 million for the organization – donations that make their way back to the community via support services and life-saving research.

Our thanks to everyone who took part, and to Alan Cross for hosting the opening ceremonies.

Moving online

Of course, it wasn’t just limited to the walk program. Our support groups, BrainWAVE and GOcervo events and activities were cancelled as well. Lockdown happened swiftly, and we had to act fast to ensure our community was still receiving the support they have become accustomed to.

In a very short time (we’re talking weeks here), we pivoted from a largely in-person support structure to one based entirely online. Our Virtual Programs were extended to cover everything from support groups to family activities and even spawned an online concert series to provide some lighthearted relief as we stayed indoors and stayed safe.

Celebrating volunteers… from a distance

Come the autumn, we made another significant change – moving our volunteer recognition awards ceremony online. This was a tough choice, but a wise one as the second wave of the pandemic was gaining momentum across Canada.

Volunteers are the lifeline between Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and the communities we serve.

Sandra Lisi and Dee Ferlisi
Dee Ferlisi and Sandra Lisi are two of five volunteer distinction award winners. They, along with the other award recipients, checked in through video for the Nov. 20 volunteer award ceremony.

While it was tough not being able to see everyone in person this year, it was an honour to be able to recognize exceptional community service through our second online ceremony of the year. Many thanks to all of our volunteers across Canada, and to our hosts – Pablo Coffey and Catherine Wreford.

Virtual supports

On the support side we introduced a new Facebook support group for caregivers. Their role in the brain tumour journey is a hard one, and having a safe, open place where they can speak to their peers is important to their mental health and wellbeing.

This year, we held a virtual retreat for young adults for much the same reasons – being able to speak freely and enjoy time with others facing the same or similar circumstances. It was a unique bonding experience in a year full of isolation.

We also opened up our support staff to questions from the community through our Community Call-Ins. We hope they provided a more intimate understanding of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and what we do.

Funding research, encouraging students

On the research side, we awarded five Feature grants, two studentships, one fellowship, eight youth education awards, in addition to our (virtual) undergraduate research competition awards.  We are only able to do this thanks to the generosity of our donors. Each dollar we are able to put toward research helps secure a better future and quality of life for every Canadian affected by a brain tumour.

2020 Undergraduate Student Research Competition winners
Dominic Bélanger, Sabrina Juhasz, Maxime Kusik, and Naomie Linteau of Laval University in Quebec City took first place at the Pam and Rolando Del Maestro Undergraduate Student Research Awards in October.

Information, education, support and research – these are the pillars of our Mission and what we do at Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. In a year where every aspect of life was jostled by the pandemic, we did everything we could to ensure that our support was not one of them.

We were here for you before COVID-19, and we’re here for you now and in the future.

Thank you for making 2020 such a special year, and for your resilience, commitment and dedication to our cause and community. Together, we will #EndBrainTumours.

With love,

Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada