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Good Neighbours: Runner goes the distance for charity

Sep 23 2012
Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick O'Hara says the idea of giving back to the community took on a greater meaning after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick O'Hara says the idea of giving back to the community took on a greater meaning after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

No one is more committed to charity in the workplace than Patrick O'Hara. The chief petty officer 2nd class at CFB Esquimalt is front and centre every year when the federal government's Workplace Charitable Campaign gets rolling.

One of the focal points of the campaign is its association with Healthpartners - a national partnership of 16 health charities that includes the Canadian Cancer Society, the Kidney Foundation and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

"I've been contributing to the campaign since I joined the navy in 1977," O'Hara said.

The local 2012 campaign kicked of Thursday at CFB Esquimalt, and federal public servants like O'Hara will be busy raising money or donating from their paycheques for the next few weeks.

O'Hara has always supported the notion of giving back to the community, but it took on even greater meaning in 2005 when the super-fit marathon runner was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

O'Hara, who is now cancer-free, pointed out that of the 3,900 Canadians diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2005, only 200 survived.

He credits research and the funding that makes it happen with keeping him alive. Health problems can strike anyone, he said, so giving to health-related causes just makes sense.

The cancer that hit him came out of nowhere when he was in the best shape of his life, O'Hara said.

"I had just finished doing the Dublin Marathon in Ireland. I came back and I was training for the Boston Marathon because I'd qualified, and that's when I noticed that I was starting to become weak."

Then a colleague on HMCS Ottawa noticed that his eyes were looking jaundiced.

Before too long, he was "Homer Simpson yellow," he said.

Doctors' first thoughts were that it could have been caused by cholesterol medication, but cancer was eventually diagnosed. O'Hara said the condition was giving him "a 24-hour itch from the inside."

He said he was lucky to receive "cutting-edge" treatment.

"I was part of a clinical study," O'Hara said. "They used drugs on me that they normally used on people who couldn't have the [usual] surgery and they found that it extended their life by 14 to 18 per cent, so I was part of the study to see how it would work on people who had the surgery."

The results were positive, O'Hara said, and the procedure is now a routine part of treatment.

Being in good condition also helped, he said.

"The day after surgery, I was up walking in the nurses' station, and as soon as I could, I went right back to the gym."

O'Hara has done a 10-kilometre race and four half-marathons since his treatment, always using his runs to raise money for cancer research. Looking ahead, he is intent on taking another shot at the Dublin Marathon in three years, when he's 60.

Last year, the workplace campaign generated $41 million across the country.

PASSION FISHER NETS PRIZE TRIP

A passion for fishing has helped Victoria's Jennifer Kowalski win a B.C.-wide draw for something she's sure to enjoy: a fishing trip with Island Outfitters.

Kowalski was one of more than 2,000 people from across the province who entered the draw, part of the this year's Freshwater Fisheries Society's Fishing Buddies Program. The program is designed to help experienced anglers get family and friends out to lakes and rivers to enjoy fishing.

Kowalski recalled catching her first fish at six or seven years old, as well the first fish caught by her son, Carter, when he was five at Elk Lake. Kowalski, husband Greg and Carter, now 10, spend a lot of time fishing at Elk, Langford and other local lakes.

Participation in the Fishing Buddies Program has grown from about 800 in 2010, its inaugural year, to more than 32,000 in 2012.

It's all part of the mandate of the Freshwater Fisheries Society, a not-for-profit group whose funding comes from fishing-licence revenues. The funds are used for fish-stocking programs and conservation measures that enhance a sector generating about $480 million in economic activity each year.

TRU VALUE FOODS HONOURS LATE OWNER

Tru Value Foods has presented the B.C. Cancer Foundation with a $10,818.60 gift in memory of the late Wayne Verch.

Verch, past Tru Value owner, had pledged to support the foundation's Inspire the World campaign but died suddenly before the donation could be made.

The campaign was launched in 2009 to help fund 10,000 square feet of new construction and renovated space at the B.C. Cancer Agency's Vancouver Island Centre.

Tru Value has been organizing fundraising efforts since Verch's death, including a recent corn and crab festival. Fundraising to benefit the cancer agency will continue.

FARM-FRESH FOOD SHOWCASE IN SAANICH

Saanich Municipal Hall is the place for farm-fresh food next weekend.

Local growers will be gathering in the hall's upper parking area from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 30 for the Sustainable Saanich Food Fest.

Haliburton Farm, the Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers, LifeCyles, Donald Street Farm, Saanich Organics and Thrifty Foods will all have representatives at the event, as will the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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