A purple heart for cancer

Fundraiser carries on legacy of teen who helped others


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Today, in a dramatic change of pace, I've decided to use this column for good as opposed to evil. So drop whatever you are holding, unless it's a baby or a full glass of beer, because there's something important I want you to do.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/05/2011 (4384 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Today, in a dramatic change of pace, I’ve decided to use this column for good as opposed to evil. So drop whatever you are holding, unless it’s a baby or a full glass of beer, because there’s something important I want you to do.

On Sunday, June 5, I want all of you to pop out of bed and put on your purple socks, purple underwear, purple pants and dresses, purple T-shirts and purple Panama hats.

Then, like a big bunch of grapes, I want all of you purple pedestrians to parade down to Mona Lisa Ristorante on Corydon Avenue, where you can purchase purple balloons, pick up purple bedding plants, have your toenails painted with “Purple with a Purpose” nail polish, listen to live music (Purple Haze?) and stuff yourselves with pillows of fried dough called “pane fritto,” which may not be purple but are definitely delicious and begin with the letter “P.”

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Kendra McBain’s mom, Tammy McBain, and Joe Grande prepare for the Purple Patio Party, a fundraiser for teens living with cancer.

I want to see this outpouring of purpleness for something called the Purple Patio Party, a special fundraising event being held at Mona Lisa to raise cash and awareness for teenagers living with cancer.

The patio party is an extension of Kendra’s Walk in support of CancerCare Manitoba. By the way, the third-annual walk is being held today starting at 3 p.m. at St. John’s-Ravenscourt School. Everyone is welcome to walk. If you can’t make it, you can donate online at www.kendraswalk.com

Along with raising cash, today’s walk and the June 5 patio party will keep alive the dreams and carry on the legacy of a courageous young woman named Kendra McBain. A brilliant student at St. John’s-Ravenscourt who loved riding horses, swimming and playing volleyball, Kendra was just 15 when she was diagnosed with alveolar rabdomyosarcoma, a cancer so rare only about 100 cases have been diagnosed in North America and New Zealand in the past six years.

In May 2009, when it looked as if countless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery were finally drawing to a close, Kendra decided it was time to give back to CancerCare Manitoba, where she’d spent long hours in the pediatric unit.

What they needed, she decided, was a special room where teenagers fighting a horrific disease could feel comfortable just being teens. So she organized and held the first Kendra’s Walk, raising $160,000 to outfit a room designed just for teens.

She picked everything that went into the room, named Kendra’s Way, but didn’t survive to see it finished. Just days before the first walk, Kendra’s cancer came back. After a courageous three-year battle, she died in December 2009 at the age of 18.

But there’s even more to Kendra’s legacy.

“Because the first walk was so successful, she was able to put aside money for programs for teens and research,” Kendra’s mom, Tammy, explained over coffee recently while helping Mona Lisa’s gregarious owner, Joe Grande, plan the first-ever Purple Patio Party.

“Before Kendra, no money was set aside specifically for teens. That’s her legacy. She recognized that teens need to be treated differently. They can’t be treated as a child and they can’t be treated as adults. There has to be something in between.”

Cancer took a lot of things from Kendra, Tammy says, but her daughter never gave up hope of finding a cure.

“When she was diagnosed, she never thought there’d be a day when there were no more treatment options,” Tammy recalled. “She was going to keep trying. When they said there were no more options is when she got passionate about raising money for research.”

Kendra McBain

She said Kendra would have loved the idea of a Purple Patio Party — even though, truth be told, she wasn’t entirely passionate about purple.

“It wasn’t her favourite colour, but she wanted a colour to represent teen cancer so she picked purple,” Tammy confessed with a smile.

“Blue was her favourite colour, but blue already represents prostate cancer.”

Rain or shine, Tammy and Joe Grande are hoping lots of you stroll to Mona Lisa on Sunday, June 5 from 2-5 p.m. There’ll be music, food, a huge balloon release, purple stuff and my purple-loving pal Frazier from FAB 94.3 FM will be there, too.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” my buddy Joe promised. “One of Kendra’s favourite foods here was pane fritto and a portion of the pane fritto sales for the whole month of June will go to Kendra’s Walk.”

The plan is for everyone to walk to the party, but if you’d rather drive, go ahead. And if you can’t find something purple to wear, feel free to show up in blue. Or pink.

I get the feeling Kendra wouldn’t mind.


Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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