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Anonymous donor to match up to $170K in April donations to Canadian Cancer Society

Before February 2019, John Zeus Tokatlidis couldn’t have imagined a simple physical exam would shake up his life. 

But the doctor found a lump, Tokatlidis was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he now lives with advanced cancer. 

“It just felt like I lost my footing on the world,” he said. “I was terrified.”

Tokatlidis credits the financial donations people make to charities like the Canadian Cancer Society with making possible the treatments that have helped save his life.

April marks Daffodil Month — the society’s annual fundraising campaign — and for the remainder of the month, the society says an anonymous donor has agreed to match all donations up to $170,000. They’re hoping to take advantage of that to top the $11 million the society raised last year.

The charity says they can’t say how much they’ve raised so far because donations come through a variety of different ways.

“The cost of everything is growing,” said Jane Parsons, executive vice president of revenue development at the society.

“From accessing things that researchers need in their labs through to what am I going to eat for dinner tonight,” she said.

John Zeus Tokatlidis sits in a chair during a chemotherapy appointment
Tokatlidis has been battling cancer for the last 5 years. During the pandemic, he received a stem cell transplant he says saved his life. (Submitted by John Zeus Tokatlidis )

Inflation driving up costs, VP says

The Canadian Cancer Society raised $168.5 million during the 2022-2023 fiscal year, of which it spent $109 million on programming and resources. But Parsons says they’re not getting as much bang for their buck — the rise in inflation and cost of living is making all aspects of support more expensive.

“What we want to make sure of is that every dollar that we raise at the Canadian Cancer Society, through campaigns like Daffodil, are really delivered and contributed to the most promising research and the support that Canadians truly need,” she said.

Jane Parsons, Executive Vice President, Revenue Development, Executive Office and Community Giving at the Canadian Cancer Society wears a black shirt with a yellow daffodil pin.
Jane Parsons, executive vice president of revenue development at the Canadian Cancer Society, says inflation has made funding support programs more costly. (Canadian Cancer Society)

Parsons says the money raised this Daffodil Month will be used to support Canadians diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers, including funding programs that help people travel to their appointments, provide accommodations at cancer lodges and emotional support wigs. 

“We’re sort of pushing the challenge in the face of the economy,” she said. “However, we also know that the demands and the challenges of people facing a diagnosis is also increasing.”

During his own cancer journey, Tokatlidis says he’s “seen the direct impact of donations.” He says one peer support group in particular, the virtual Cancer Connection, has been invaluable as he grappled with the emotional and mental impact of having cancer.  

“It connected me with other cancer survivors across the country,” he said. “Something like cancer will affect one in two Canadians. It’s huge, so we need to be united … Something this big, we all need to rally around.”

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