One thing that has always struck me about the City of Winnipeg is the warmth and depth of heart of its people.
Everywhere you turn, myriad examples of Winnipeggers taking time out of their hectic schedules to help others in the community can be found. There is a sense of community responsibility that seems to pulse from the very core of the city.
Or what I like to call "response-ability" -- people's ability to respond when others in the community are in need.
Take for example Tom McNorgan.
When a friend he had known for three weeks became seriously ill, McNorgan immediately stepped in to lend a helping hand. Working as a general manager at Luxalune Gastropub, the 28-year-old became aware last May one of the servers whom he had befriended there, Derek Komatich, had been diagnosed with acute leukemia.
"He was at work one day and the next day he wasn't," said McNorgan. When he went to go visit his 22-year-old friend in the hospital, McNorgan realized because of the intense, sometimes daily, treatment of chemotherapy and radiation required to fight the cancer, Komatich was struggling financially. Unable to work, his bills were piling up.
"When you are 22, you don't really think about things like health-care plans," explained Komatich. "The drugs are very expensive, and the pharmacare deductible looks like it's gonna be $2,000.
"The minute I left from visiting him, I thought I gotta do something, I need to help him out," said McNorgan. "To be diagnosed with leukemia and then on top of it to be stressing out about finances, I wouldn't want to have to deal with that on my own."
A musician, McNorgan decided to put together a concert to help support his friend.
"I'm not a businessman or rich or anything, to put on a concert is the best thing I could think of to do for him," McNorgan said.
The aptly titled Winnipeg Rock Against Cancer Concert Aug. 24 will feature seven bands (including McNorgan's) playing an eclectic mix of music, including punk, reggae, metal, folk and ska. On Komatich's insistence, 10 per cent of the proceeds from the concert will go to CancerCare Manitoba for leukemia research.
"We are always in awe and so grateful when people donate money and put on these types of events in support of CancerCare Manitoba," said Annitta Stenning, executive director of the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation. "CancerCare Manitoba is responsible in this province for early detection, care, research, education and public outreach -- the whole spectrum of the patient journey. Though we are funded by the province, many of our projects and services are not eligible, and that's where donations such as these can have huge impacts."
When asked what he thinks about the concert, Komatich smiled. "It's pretty much the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. And I think it's great they were able to make something positive out of it, raise some money for CancerCare too, make the best out of a bad situation. It's a good feeling."
Said McNorgan about his friend: "He is definitely a really strong person with a lot of fight. He's not gonna let this disease kick him around."
The irony of McNorgan's band's name, No Hope, is not lost on his friend. Komatich said, as the two friends broke out in laughter, "They're changing their name on the night of the concert to Plenty of Hope."
It's the kind of jubilation that seems to be infused itself with that sometimes very elusive of things -- hope.
The Winnipeg Rock Against Cancer Concert will take place on Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. at the Garrick Centre. Tickets are available in advance at SK8 Skates, Kustom Kulture and Into the Music.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make the community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin at firstname.lastname@example.org.