Award honours memory of Olive Branch’s co-founder

By RON FANFAIR

The Olive Branch of Hope Breast Cancer Support Services has unveiled an award to honour co-founder, Eugenie Gardner, who lost her eight-year battle with the disease last December.

The inaugural memorial award was presented to Marcia Lewis at the annual “Evening of Love” fundraiser last Saturday night.

One of the organization’s seven co-founders, Gardner was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2000. She often reached out to the support group by sharing stories of her courageous life and valuable information she picked up on the disease at conferences she attended in Canada and in the United States.

“The memory of a beautiful life will forever live on in our hearts,” said the organization’s Director of Support Services, Winsome Johnson, who is a breast cancer survivor. “She gave us hope by sharing her journey and encouraging us to face the future with courage and hope. She did not only seek support from us but she gave it.”

Lewis, an Oakville resident who joined the Olive Branch of Hope three years ago, said she’s honoured to be recognized with the award.

“It’s a recognition that will drive me to do more for this group in terms of raising much needed financial resources,” she said.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among middle-aged women and Leila Springer, the Olive Branch of Hope’s founding president, has developed a passion to help those afflicted with the disease in Canada’s Black community cope with distress and crises associated with cancer.

“The Olive Branch is here for the community and it’s a haven for those who need a safe place and a non-judgmental environment to meet others who are on the same journey and share things they have in common,” she said. “We gave them the resources they need to help them make informed decisions and to make sense of it all so that they will know what their next step should be.

“This is a family, an advocate and a voice. We are here to support patients and take action to fuel life-saving research driven by real values and real people.”

Springer, herself a breast cancer survivor, has promised to use her new position as president of the World Breast Cancer Foundation to increase support services and help patients learn more about the disease. She was elected last month.

“I will work to show what the impact of having a strong  and collective voice could mean in terms of striving to close the gap that stands between women in need of support and the services they need,” added Springer who is the global body’s  first Black president and the first Black to sit on the board.

“I am now in a position to lead the campaign for change by being at the decision-making table.”

Springer made a presentation to Olive Branch of Hope supporter, Millicent Douglas, for her commitment and dedication to the organization.

“You came at a time when we desperately needed help and you delivered,” she told Douglas. “We appreciate your hard work and all that you have done for us.”

Money raised at last Saturday night’s fundraiser will be used to enhance existing programs. 

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