This year marks Hope & Cope’s 40th anniversary!

Although it is hard to believe, in 1981, the word “cancer”, if spoken at all, was mentioned in hushed tones. It was within this context that our Founder, the indomitable Sheila Kussner, first presented her idea of using cancer-experienced volunteers to offer peer support and practical resources to cancer patients and their families within a hospital setting. Initially, she was greeted with skepticism. The doctors worried that volunteers would cross boundaries by, for example, offering medical advice. Sheila instinctively understood that properly trained volunteers could be a tremendous asset in cancer care.

Of course, she was right, and over the ensuing years, we have enjoyed an excellent, collaborative and mutually respectful relationship with staff throughout the Jewish General Hospital as well as with other cancer agencies and organizations across Canada.

Throughout its 40-year history, Hope & Cope recorded many impressive firsts at the local and national level.

Milestones and Firsts


  • With the support of the JGH Auxiliary and the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal, Hope & Cope opens its doors at the JGH, becoming the first hospital-affiliated, volunteer-based cancer support system in Quebec. We opened with 10 volunteers and one part-time staff coordinator, offering peer counselling, clinic support, office support and a small library.


  • Marjorie and Gerald Bronfman generously establish an endowment for Hope & Cope, providing much-needed financial stability.


  • The Chaverot (Friends) of Hope & Cope is established by Frances Isenberg. This group of committed and dynamic women go on to host popular annual fundraisers such as Fashion Fantasy, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support our services.


  • Hope & Cope establishes Montreal’s first Young Adult Cancer Patients’ Support Group.


  • Hope & Cope co-founds the JGH Supportive Care Team for patients with advanced cancer.


  • Thanks to a generous donation by Abe Stern, Hope & Cope twins with the Volunteer Support Program at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel.


  • Hope & Cope introduces its Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Support Group.


  • Hope & Cope becomes financially independent of the Auxiliary, enabling the organization to chart its own course.


  • Hope & Cope becomes the first volunteer-based cancer organization in Quebec to undertake scientifically valid, peer reviewed research.


  • Hope & Cope opens a satellite office in Radiation Oncology.



  • Hope & Cope becomes one of a handful of sites in Montreal for the Look Good, Feel Better™


  • As a result of a generous donation by Cookie Lazarus and Family, the Maxine Lazarus Memorial Volunteer Scholarship Fund is established. This Fund allows volunteers to attend national and international conferences on cancer-related topics.


  • Sheila Kussner is an invited panel member at the Fifth International Congress on Anti-Cancer Chemotherapy in Paris, France.


  • Hope & Cope plays an instrumental role in securing major funding for the establishment of the Palliative Care Unit at the Jewish General Hospital


  • Hope & Cope opens a satellite office in Palliative Care


  • The Young Adult Division is established to raise awareness of and funds for young adults (18-39) with cancer.


  • Executive Director Suzanne O’Brien is an invited keynote speaker at the 6th World Congress of Psychosocial Oncology.


  • Hope & Cope launches Breast Friends, the first support group for women with metastatic breast cancer.


  • Friends of Hope & Cope raises $1,000,000 at its Fashion Fantasy


  • Hope & Cope moves its main office to the 7th floor of the newly opened JGH Segal Cancer Centre.
  • Diesel Canada and Joëlle Berdugo Adler announce major gift to establish Hope & Cope’s Wellness Centre in memory of Lou Adler. The Board of Gilda’s Club makes its own generous contribution to this venture.
  • Hope & Cope celebrates its 25th anniversary with a major gala honouring Sheila Kussner, raising $2.6 million.


Wellness opening

  • The Hope & Cope Wellness Centre – Quebec’s first hospital-affiliated cancer wellness centre – opens officially on July 3rd in the presence of dignitaries, hospital and community leaders and major donors. To the best of our knowledge, the centre is the only one of its kind in Canada to house its own exercise facility.
  • Hope & Cope hosts the Canadian Cancer Patient Education Network’s Annual Conference.
  • Launch of the Groupe Dorval-Sources-St-Henri Walk-a-thon – an annual fundraiser in support of our Cancer Exercise and Rehabilitation Program.


  • McGill University and Hope & Cope jointly announce the establishmentof the Christine and Herschel Victor Hope & Cope Chair in Psychosocial Oncology at McGill – the first chair of its kind in Quebec and the third in all of Canada


  • Hope & Cope establishes the En famille program, designed to meet the needs of young families with children under 18, in which a parent or other primary caregiver has cancer.


  • Hope & Cope rebrands its young adult program as CancerFightClub. Geared towards the unique needs of young adults with cancer, the program includes social and recreational activities, annual retreats, a website, and a strong social media presence.
  • Carmen Loiselle is appointed the inaugural Christine & Herschel Victor Hope & Cope Chair in Psychosocial Oncology


  • The Wellness Centre’s Cancer Exercise & Rehabilitation Program (also known as ActivOnco) begins making a name for itself, conducting innovative research and developing and teaching an accredited 2-day course on exercise oncology for physiotherapists.


  • Hope & Cope’s team is invited to plan and lead exercise breaks at the International Congress of Palliative Care in Montreal.
  • Hope & Cope launches its innovative Breast & Bone Health Program, with funding from the CURE Foundation and the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. The tools created through this research study are available at 


  •  Hope & Cope offers mini retreats for young adults with metastatic cancer.
  • With the help of volunteers, Hope & Cope revamps its garden to promote the healing effects of nature.


  • The Volunteer Management Council is established, giving volunteers a greater voice in recommending policies around volunteer engagement and retention. The Council reports to Hope & Cope’s Executive Board.
  • The Art for Healing Foundation installs a magnificent art collection at the Wellness Centre, showcasing renowned Quebec artists.


  • Launch of Tell Cancer to Take a Hike – a unique fundraiser that would go on to raise $1 million over a 2-year period
  • The En famille program creates a new resource – a series of 3 illustrated booklets on talking to children about cancer, advanced cancer and bereavement.


  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope & Cope offers a wide variety of services, including support groups, webinars and wellness activities on-line through the Zoom video-conferencing platform.