Cancer has touched all of our lives. As a second cause of death in North America, most of us know someone whose life has been claimed by this deadly disease. Fuelled by this sentience, 10 courageous men and women competed in the charity boxing gala, Fight To End Cancer (FTEC) at Toronto’s historic Old Mill Inn, to help raise money and awareness for The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
Only in its 3rd year of running, Fight To End Cancer has grown to a recognizable spectacle, attracting a large audience and considerable awareness from all over Toronto and the GTA. Held as a black tie gala, this prestigious fundraiser fuses Olympic style boxing with the flair of Las Vegas entertainment. 600 guests enjoyed an elegant gourmet dinner, prepared by the Old Mill Inn, followed by the night’s main event – a series of 5 sanctioned boxing matches featuring some of Toronto’s most influential and successful business professionals.
The 10 boxers of the gala were all in some ways affected by cancer, a devastation that hits home for them. The 8 men and 2 women all held high-ranking positions in the community and the corporate world, but somehow found the time to commit themselves to this fundraiser and its cause despite their busy schedules. Having little to no first-hand boxing experience, the fighters trained intensely for the past 6 months by the Kingsway Boxing Club (and by head coach Virgil Barrow), yielding a stern determination in every boxer that could be witness in the ring on the night of the fight.
When the matches began, excitement and emotions ran high and throughout the night. The bouts were no put-ons as we watched some of the fighters do some serious damage to each other – bloody noses and knockout punches were not unorthodox. The most intense and highly anticipated fight of the night belonged to the two female fighters of the event – Jane Watson (VP Consulting at Optimum Talent) and Dawn Ramsay Brown (Creative Partner at Off To Market Inc.). The women squared off in the ring as their family and friends cheered and shouted among the crowd. Although Dawn made some great counter punches, Jane managed to throw some more direct punches, taking home the winning title.
The brainchild behind the Fight To End Cancer (as well as the owner of Kingsway Boxing Club), Jennifer Huggins had worked tirelessly with the men and women involved to create this remarkable event. We had the opportunity to talk to this Founder and Executor Director of FTEC about the inception of the charity and its growth. The statuesque beauty and athlete remarked that because she had once been a magician’s assistant, and therefore always loved the concept of Las Vegas entertainment. Being the Owner and Head Coach at her Kingsway gym, as well as a Referee and Judge for Boxing Ontario, the idea of a boxing gala seems naturally fitting to this renaissance woman. Like many others, Huggins is also touched by the ravaging disease of cancer and wants to give back to her community. This guided her to brew together a charity that she is passionate about with an industry in which she well-versed. Next year, Huggins expects to grow FTEC with bigger sponsorship, even greater awareness, and more direct ways for people to contribute, such as donating stem cells etc.
It was an awe-inspiring night for everyone. With the series of consuming fights that captivated the audience, light-hearted raffle draws were also featured at the event to allow the crowd to give back. Donations and the night’s fundraising efforts raised an astounding $85,000.00, proving this year to be the biggest and most successful. All proceeds will go directly to support The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation and its Hospital Urgent Cancer Priorities Fund. Since its inaugural event in 2011, the FTEC has already raised over $160,000.00, and it has no plans to slow down. The gala is only one part of an ongoing fundraising effort that continues to raise proceeds and awareness throughout the year even after the event draws its curtains.
Although the fight had ended in the ring on that night, the fight against cancer doesn’t end in our communities and continues to claim the lives of our loved ones. I had lost my mother some years ago to cancer. The gala served not only as a poignant tribute to those who lost their battle, but also as a stirring reminder that we have the ability to support the cause that may one day help to end this battle.
For more information about Fight To End Cancer and how you can help, please visit: www.fighttoendcancer.com
For more information about The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, please visit: www.pmhf.ca