Celebrating Together at our Volunteer Social

This past August, 175 volunteers gathered for cocktails, camaraderie and celebration at one of the most anticipated events on our calendar – Hope & Cope’s annual Volunteer Social. Several notables spoke to the assembled guests, including Dr. Gerald Batist, Director of the Segal Cancer Centre, Sal Guerrera, longstanding Board member, Susan Polisuk, Past President, Sheila Kussner, Founder, Marlene and Joel King, Co-Chairs, and Suzanne O’Brien, Executive Director, who took everyone on a trip down memory lane with a slide show that featured many milestones and magical moments in our 35- year history.

The highlight of this heartwarming evening was the recognition ceremony, where volunteers received certificates recognizing service anniversaries in five-year increments. Susan Polisuk, Phyllis Waxman and the late Jessica Miller were singled out for their remarkable 35­year commitment to Hope & Cope. Susan and Phyllis were invited on to the stage to receive their certificates. Jessica’s daughter, Sheryl, and son, Farrell, accepted on her behalf. Barbara Knobovitch and Miriam Klein, celebrating 30 years, also were invited to the stage.

Sheila proudly presented the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) to two outstanding women: Joan Ungar and Debbie Bridgman. Inaugurated in 2015, the DSA is presented to a volunteer who has shown remarkable dedication, commitment, initiative and leadership to Hope & Cope in multiple roles over a period of many years.

Joan’s association with Hope & Cope goes back 32 years. She began as a fundraiser for the Chaverot (Friends) of Hope & Cope, a group best known for its dazzling annual Fashion Fantasy shows, and served as its President for many year. She then extended her commitment by becoming a service volunteer as a driver with our transportation team, and a clinic volunteer in the Pulmonary Department and in Radiation Oncology. She took charge of ordering pamphlets for our library and from 2006-­2008, Joan served a two-­year term as President of Hope & Cope with great distinction, overseeing the opening of Lou’s House, our Wellness Centre.

“Flexible, energetic, compassionate, down-­to-­earth, generous with her time and 100% reliable, she is, without a doubt, one of the hardest working people I have ever met,” said Sheila, as she presented the award to Joan.

A five-­time cancer survivor, Debbie Bridgman personifies the wisdom of the lived experience. While her first point of contact with Hope & Cope was as a young mother and breast cancer survivor, Debbie quickly became one of our most energetic, thoughtful and determined volunteers. A catalyst for the creation of our Young Adult Support Group, Debbie has worked as a peer mentor, a support group facilitator and a palliative care volunteer. Along with Sheryl Miller and Lisa Singer, she was one of a core group of people responsible for Denim & Diamonds, an annual fundraising event for Hope & Cope’s Young Adult programs and oversaw the transition to CancerFightClub. She was a key member of the Young Adult Strategic Plan team in 2008, has played an important role in every single milestone associated with our young adult program and continues to represent Hope & Cope and our young adults at local, national and international conferences. “Above all,” Sheila concluded, “Debbie is a valued friend, guide and mentor to a new generation of young adult leadership.”

For more photos of this great evening, visit https://www.facebook.com/hopecopemontreal/

Words of inspiration

“Sheila’s concept of recruiting cancer experienced volunteers to participate in a cancer centre was a brilliant insight and a powerful concept that has proven its value…You are not just an extra pair of hands but a set of ears, eyes and heart that touch patients in very profound and remarkable ways.”

– Dr. Gerald Batist, addressing volunteers on behalf of his colleagues in the Segal Cancer Centre at the Jewish General Hospital

“Sheila has been a great inspiration to all of us for so many years. She and her husband, Marvyn, were great pioneers who reached out to everyone. To this day, Sheila is still on the phone, still working hard for us and for cancer patients. She never gives up.”

– Sal Guerrera, paying tribute to Sheila Kussner, and her late husband, Marvyn

“You are living examples of hope and through your words and your actions, you teach people how to live with uncertainty, how to cope with the unthinkable and how to thrive to the best of their ability.”

-Sheila Kussner, congratulating and thanking Hope & Cope’s volunteers

“My work with Hope & Cope is deeply meaningful to me and I am very proud to receive this award.”
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– Joan Ungar, accepting her Distinguished Service Award

“I’ve made the best of friends and I’ve lost the best of friends. Through it all, Hope & Cope has always been my source of comfort and peace.”

– Debbie Bridgman, accepting her Distinguished Service Award

“It was a lovely evening. What really stood out for me is that we truly celebrated our volunteers. They were the focus in an evening of celebration that was rich with remembrances of the history of Hope & Cope.”

– Lucy Fazio, Past President and clinic volunteer

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