By Gord Mahaffy
Cancer is a scary word for most people. And for those families that have been touched by cancer, they need all the support they can get.
Most communities provide this much needed support and in Oshawa that group is called Hearth Place. But Hearth Place is totally unfunded by the government and relies on volunteers for its funding and most of its staffing.
For the second year in a row Hearth Place has approached the aviation community in order to stage a fundraising 5K-1K run on the runway at the Oshawa airport. Last year, on one of the worst days in the Fall, they managed to raise more than $20,000. So for the second time members of the aviation community in Oshawa and members of COPA Flight 70 responded.
Again the Oshawa City Council and airport manager Steve Wilcox allowed the airport to be closed for the morning of October 23. This is not an easy thing to do for an airport with two flight schools and many private owners. But when it comes to dealing a blow to cancer, most people were glad to have the opportunity.
Under the direction of Hearth Place’s Andy Anderson volunteers spent all day Saturday setting up the ramp area for the Sunday event.
Then, on Sunday, everyone hit the deck running. First CTV sport caster, Joe Tilley, flew in Desmond Lightbody’s Pitt’s Special to act as emcee. Next Oshawa’s mayor, John Henry touched down in Hannu Halminen’s Harvard. Spectators arrived by the hundreds and even Mother Nature joined the cause. After 10 days of solid wind and rain the sun came out, the temperature went up and summer returned for a while.
The Remax Balloon was able to fly this year and for a cash donation to Hearth Place treated passengers to a tethered flight. The “Birds of Prey” exhibit was a huge hit with the public.
At 10 a.m. the first participants cleared the gate and literally hundreds of runners spilled out on runway 12/30 to do their part in defeating cancer. Several experienced runners set a blistering pace, explaining they like running on airports because it is so flat and well measured that they get an accurate measure of their best time which is not available on road courses.
After the barbecue, the awards and the festivities were over, Hearth Place had raised $44,000.
It is hard to write an account of this event because cancer is such an emotional topic for most people. But perhaps the greatest inspiration was found in the public display area. It was an olive drab Griffon helicopter from the Canadian Armed Forces. Its crew under the command of Captain LeBell was the only aircrew in the Canadian Forces to have been shot down in Afghanistan. But, like many people who have been touched by cancer, they share a special title — Survivors.