Western student creates, runs Music for a Cure charity

Van Voorst plans annual charity concert for hospital cancer wings

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Since 2005, third-year Western music student Katherine van Voorst has been organizing and running a non-profit organization that raises money for cancer care facilities in London, Barrie and Ottawa.

“It started when my Uncle Evert got lung cancer,” van Voorst explains. “Him and his wife had to travel to Toronto, so he had to leave his job because he had cancer. And my aunt had to take a leave from her job to drive him down to Toronto everyday for treatments.”

This personal relationship with cancer was what originally drove van Voorst to start Music for a Cure, which van Voorst originallity planned to contribute to Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital in its expansion for the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre.

When her uncle went into remission, van Voorst saw her move to London as an opportunity to expand the organization’s reach.

“In my second year at Western, we decided to do a concert here. We were successful in raising over $4,600 for the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario.”

While she now mainly focuses on the London branch of Music for a Cure, others have stepped up to keep it going in its other two locations.

“Mark Wilkinson has taken it up to Ottawa now,” van Voorst says. “So we have one for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. And a girl by the name of Emily Hay and a young man by the name of Steven Kavaratzis, who went to my high school and are in Grade 12, are actually restarting the Barrie one.”

London’s Children’s Hospital has yet another personal connection for the co-ordinator.

“At the time, a young friend of the family, Hannah, who was three, passed away from leukemia and she was in the Children’s Hospital here in London. That’s why we went here in particular, for Hannah.”

Music for a Cure raises money by putting on annual charity concerts in each city and van Voorst is not afraid to make use of her faculty’s talent pool for the London show.

“It’ll be a good mix of people: some vocals, some instrumentalists, some piano " a mixture of jazz, classical, pop, rock and Broadway. [Western student] Alex [Lacroix-Bardsley] will be performing some original compositions.”

Other student and faculty performers include professor Gary McCumber on clarinet, pianists Tim Cheung and Perri Lo, flutist Josh Veenstra, vocalist Meher Pavri and many others.

Including last week’s Ottawa concert, the organization has raised $12,600 for cancer treatment centres across Ontario. This year, van Voorst hopes to raise at least $2,000 in London, money that will go to a very specific program.

“In London, they have a program that, through the arts, helps children with cancer adapt themselves to the life of being in a hospital, so they can accept the fact that they’re in the hospital and get used to living life there.”

The money also goes toward purchasing new equipment and building a new children’s hospital designed to have more space and light. Donations also support research into the causes and prevention of childhood diseases.

“What Music for a Cure does is basically give the money to the hospital and say, ‘This is what we’re looking toward. We’re looking toward helping kids with cancer.’”

The Music for a Cure concert takes place on Saturday, March 29 at 2 p.m. at Colborne St. United Church. Tickets are available at the Porter’s Desk in the Music Building Lobby, or by calling (519) 902-5159.

• On average, 3,075 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every week.
• On average, 1,398 Canadians will die of cancer every week.
• Thirty-nine per cent of Canadian women will develop cancer during their lifetimes. Among men, 44 per cent will develop cancer during their lifetimes.
• Cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Canada: 1,006,000 potential years were lost in 2003 as a result of cancer. This represents 32 per cent of the potential years of life lost resulting from all causes of death.
• Cancer is primarily a disease of older Canadians: 44 per cent of new cancer cases and 60 per cent of cancer deaths will occur among those who are at least 70 years old.
"Statistics courtesy of Canadian Cancer Society

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