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One last Nite to spark a lifetime of hope
It's been six years since an idea was borne from one woman's struggle, evolving into an event that has touched the hearts of countless people on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
On April 12, the seventh annual White Rock/South Surrey Nite of Hope, benefitting breast cancer research, will once again bring the community together in the search for a cure, before taking an indefinite hiatus.
Committee chair and breast cancer survivor Debi Rumley, who brought the gala dinner event to the South Surrey/White Rock area in 2006 after attending in her hometown of Richmond, said that while this would be the last event here for the time being, it was by no means over.
"This is not a goodbye forever, we are just taking a good break for now," Rumley said.
Lori Isakowa, who is co-chair of the event's committee with Rumley and Tammy Ritchie, said that retiring Nite of Hope had a lot to do with her decision to move on to other areas of need in the city.
"I was the one who started it, I guess," she laughed. "I knew this would be my last Night of Hope, and I was hoping Tammy would stay, but we have both started working on another charity which helps refugee families in need. After so many years of doing Nite of Hope, it was time for a change of focus."
It's been a whirlwind six years for the three women, who first teamed up to create the committee shortly after Rumley partnered with White Rock Coast Capital branch manager Sharon Provost in late 2005. During a lunch meeting, the two women discussed adding on more sponsors when Provost suggested the "perfect" person for the task, Rumley said.
"She told me that this is exactly the kind of event Linda Klitch, publisher of the Peace Arch News, could help with," Rumley said of PAN's late publisher, who died last fall after complications from surgery.
"We went to meet her and she was the most vivacious person you would want to meet and so ready to help.
"It all started with a conversation, some very caring people and companies nurturing the project."
Shortly after that, the committee was formed, with the same people staying on for the past six years.
The committee has been assisted by more than 150 volunteers who help make Nite of Hope a success each year, Rumley said.
"Without our community, this would not go on," she said. "This disease affected me, I brought it forward, and then it became everyone's event."
"Everyone comes together, and I don't know most of them – it would be impossible to know them all. They are just people in the community who step forward to help the community."
Since its inception, the goal for Nite of Hope has been to raise $1 million for breast cancer research. So far, they have raised more than $900,000 locally, making Rumley and the committee confident they will achieve the $1-million mark this year.
Much of the reason behind the event's success is due to the fact that 100 per cent of the proceeds goes to breast cancer research, she said.
"Every dollar goes to research, that was really important. We didn't want it to go to a bunch of administrative fees," she said. "All the people in our community – including the 1,500 businesses in White Rock and South Surrey – have helped us get to this mark. We couldn't have done it without them."
This year, the committee approached the members of the business community, asking for donations of $1 for each woman in their lives.
"We've had people donate hundreds of dollars for the women in their lives," she said. "It's wonderful."
Just as important as the money raised – to organizers – is the awareness about prevention, including mammograms.
"I was over 40 and I had never had a mammogram before being diagnosed," Rumley said. "I was healthy and I had never had any history in the family. It's so important to get it done."
Since origination in Richmond in 1994, and now including gatherings locally and in the North Shore, the three communities have collectively raised more than $2.6 million for Nite of Hope.
The White Rock event will be held at Centennial Arena, 14600 North Bluff Rd.
For more information, visit their website.