They are military veterans. They served in a variety of roles -- as vehicle technicians, in logistics, in the infantry. They now get together to recapture the sense of camaraderie they once knew in the military and long for as civilians, and to serve the community of Winnipeg by holding fundraisers and events for organizations such as the Military Family Resource Centre.
Oh yes, they enjoy riding motorcycles together. Big motorcycles. Harley Davidsons.
They are members of the Tri-Service Military Veterans Association of Canada, a non-profit group of Canadian veterans.
When an association member, Tony de Groot, was diagnosed with colon cancer, these tough-as-nails men decided they needed to help out one of their own.
De Groot, a 44-year-old father of children A.J., 11, Janna, 9, and Jeremy, 2, was diagnosed last May. The mechanic for Bison Transport needed time off work, first for surgery and now for chemotherapy. His wife works for Tim Hortons but only part-time so she can spend more time with two of their children who have special needs, living with autism.
De Groot's disability cheques can be difficult to stretch at times, and because of a pre-existing heart condition, he found himself ineligible for mortgage insurance.
"It's been a strain, if it wasn't for family and friends helping out," says de Groot. "With the chemotherapy there's been so many different side-effects, the worst being tiredness, fatigue and sensitivity to cold."
Paul de Groot, president of the association and a brother to Tony, decided that the group would set up a fundraising social event aptly titled Code Name: Bottoms Up for Tony.
"We had a discussion among ourselves. Tony had no idea and we decided we had to do something to help him and his family out," says Paul.
"Our goal for this event is twofold: first to raise funds to help ease the burden of Tony and his family's day-to-day living expenses so that they may be able to focus solely on getting well," says William Lee, association treasurer, former military policeman and host of the social fundraiser. "Secondly, we would like to raise awareness of colon cancer and the importance of early detection through having a routine examination and colonoscopy."
The event, which takes place on Friday at Stereo Nightclub Canad Inns, will not only have a silent auction, but also a power-point presentation about colon cancer to help raise awareness. All proceeds raised will go to de Groot and his family.
"It's surprising. You don't know how many friends you have," says de Groot. "There are people I don't even know making donations. I feel so very fortunate. I'm just trying to keep my spirits positive, hoping after the chemo, the cancer will be over and done with, and I can move on with my life with my family."
For more information about the fundraiser, how to buy tickets and become involved, please visit: www.cdnveterans.com.
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