Wine collector Rob Charlton, a South Surrey resident, gave up drinking liquor for a month as part of a “Lose the Booze” fundraiser organized by BC Cancer Foundation. (submitted photo)

Surrey wine collector was a ‘booze loser’ for month in cancer-fighting cause

Rob Charlton went alcohol-free in February to raise $2,000 for BC Cancer Foundation

SURREY — Rob Charlton was a “booze loser” for a second straight year, and it wasn’t any easier this time around.

In February, the longtime Morgan Creek-area resident was among 225 people in the province who gave up drinking liquor for an entire month as part of a Lose the Booze fundraiser organized by BC Cancer Foundation.

“Good thing it’s done in the shortest month of the year,” Charlton, a wine collector, said with a laugh.

A retired lawyer, he received more than $2,000 in donations from friends, family and former co-workers this time around.

Close to $70,000 was raised during this year’s campaign, which benefits the foundation’s work to advance research and enhance care for B.C. residents living with cancer. In four years, Lose the Booze has raised $240,000.

“What you’ll lose in booze you’ll gain in funds for life-saving cancer research at BC Cancer,” says a post on the campaign website, “We know that one in two people in our province will face cancer, so put down your ale, grab a mocktail and help make a difference.”

Charlton learned about the fundraiser a couple of years ago, and got involved.

“Somebody brought it to my attention – someone who did one of those rides for cancer, and I had a connection to prostate cancer because my dad died from it,” Charlton recalled.

“He was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was about 84,” he continued. “His PSA levels were through the roof, and the cancer had kind of spread. He lasted 10 years with it, but died from it, and it spread to his bones and everything. I think he might still be alive today, because otherwise he was healthy, a really sharp mind and everything.”

Going alcohol-free for 28 days is a tough test for Charlton, a member of the Vancouver chapter of Commanderie de Bordeaux, a group of Bordeaux drinkers and collectors.

“So it’s kind of grim for me, looking at that bunch of wines I’ve got in my cellar, but you know, it’s a good test of a person’s resolve,” Charlton said with a chuckle. “Yes, I enjoy a glass of wine, and you certainly have to change your pattern of behavior. Every Wednesday, for instance, I play a round of golf and get together with the guys and, you know, have some wine afterward. So none of that.”

So far, Charlton hasn’t convinced any of his friends to be a fellow “booze loser” for the cause.

“They’re not interested – I can’t explain why, but I can speculate,” he said, laughing. “They seem willing to donate to my cause, so maybe that’s the situation.”

The campaign’s fundraising tips include using social media to spread the word, celebrating the “Soberbowl” when everyone else is partying during the NFL’s championship game, and “asking for some love” on Valentine’s Day.

For participants wanting – or needing – a drink during the month, a “free pass” can be purchased for $25 and donated to their own fundraising page.

“But I don’t know, that’s kind of like cheating,” remarked Charlton.

In his life after lawyering, Charlton learned how to play guitar and now performs at seniors’ centres and homes, including one operated by Come Share Society.

“My mom used to go there,” he explained, “and I saw how much the (residents) loved music, even the ones suffering through some of the horrible diseases, things like Alzheimer’s and stuff, so I thought it’d be a good thing to do, to perform for people there. And I’ve always loved music, so I play the guitar and sing for them. Right now, it’s about once a month, sometimes twice, and I’ll bring along my guitar teacher to play backup every so often.”

As for Lose the Booze, Charlton is aiming to get involved next February, too.

“I think I will, yeah,” he said. “It’s a worthy effort and I think overall, the campaign raised some pretty decent money, and I undertsand there are new techniques and approaches used lately to fight cancer, so anything I can do to help fund that, is good.”

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