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Luncheon of Hope goes virtual: It’s not the same, but NCF hopes people still donate

Keynote speaker at Sept. 25 fundraiser is Sudburian Patricia Montpetit, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019
Patricia Montpetit. (Supplied)

The Luncheon of Hope, a popular event that normally takes place at the Caruso Club at the end of September, has gone virtual this year to keep everyone safe amid COVID-19.

Although Northern Cancer Foundation executive director Tannys Laughren said the Sept. 25 fundraiser won’t be the same, she hopes people still participate because they recognize the importance of the cause.

“I love the Luncheon of Hope — watching everybody get together, and watching these amazing friend groups who have some of them been coming for 22 years,” she said.

“They look forward to it, they co-ordinate their outfits, they’ll bring little treats to the table. It’s an unbelievably powerful hour, and to not have that in person is going to be really, really tough.

“We don’t at all think it’s going to be the same. We don’t think it’s going to be as good, but it is what it is.”

Laughren said the Northern Cancer Foundation made the decision months ago to run all of its events virtually because of the pandemic.

The annual Northern Cancer Foundation fundraising event — which is in its 22nd year — has raised more than $1 million for breast cancer research and treatment equipment here in Greater Sudbury.

Funds raised this year will be directed toward the purchase of the Incucyte S3 Live Cell Analysis system

This device can provide live-cell analysis where cells are measured continuously so that new insights in biological processes and changes can be done real time. 

People can tune in on YouTube next Friday to hear from guest speakers, including well-known Sudbury oncologist and researcher Dr. Lacey Pitre, who works at the Northeast Cancer Centre, as well as local woman Patricia Montpetit, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.

You can check out the Northern Cancer Foundation’s website or phone its office at 705-523-4673 for more information on the event, which will run from 12-1 p.m. Sept. 25. RSVP by email at

The virtual Luncheon of Hope is free, although you’re encouraged to donate the usual cost of a ticket ($60) to the Northern Cancer Foundation. All donations stay in the community and are 100 per cent tax deductible. 

“It’s a free invite,” Laughren said. “You don’t have to pay anything to access the event. We are hoping that people will donate even their ticket sales … In some cases, we’ve had donations come in at $500 and we’ve had donations come in at $25. It all makes a really big difference, especially this year.”

Although last year’s Luncheon of Hope raised about $85,000, Laughren said she’d be happy if the 2020 event raised $20,000.

“I get it, there are financial challenges for a lot of people right now, especially our smaller local businesses,” she said. “We understand that the sponsorship won’t be the same, and that people may not be able to donate what they did. But any bit helps.”

Every year, the Luncheon of Hope features a keynote speech by someone who has experienced breast cancer, and this year’s speaker is Patricia Montpetit.

A social worker by trade, Monpetit worked in the area of community services for seniors and developmentally handicapped people for 37 years. She retired as executive director of the local Alzheimer Society branch in 2011.

Montpetit, a mother of two and grandmother of two, was diagnosed with Stage 1, Grade 3 cancer in her left breast almost a year ago. 

She said she would have never known she had cancer if she hadn’t gone for her regular mammogram, as she couldn’t feel a lump in her breast.

“That’s one of the messages I want to put out — I did get every two years a reminder that it was time to book my mammogram,” Montpetit said.

“If I hadn’t right away done that, I still probably wouldn’t know I had cancer because I couldn’t feel the tumour. Even after I was told ‘Yes, you have a tumour — I could not feel it.’”

She had a lumpectomy Oct. 31, as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatments over the course of the winter and spring. 

She said she was impressed with how well the health-care system worked here in Greater Sudbury to ensure she got diagnosed and received the proper treatments.

Her last treatment was at the end of April, so the pandemic didn’t impact on her cancer treatment as much as it could have — she had to attend the last few appointments without a family member by her side. 

She said she can't imagine what people who have had cancer surgeries postponed due to COVID-19 are going through.

Montpetit said she plans to focus in her speech on how grateful she was to receive timely care, and how fortunate we are to have the Northeast Cancer Centre here in Greater Sudbury.

“Before 1990, people had to go to Toronto for all these treatments,” she said. “That might seem like a long time ago now, but I don’t think of it as very long ago.”