All hands on deck
The Boat Rally’s Amazing Race-style competition embraces the fun in fundraising for Sunnybrook
When the Boat Rally’s front-running team arrived at a Muskoka cottage “pit stop” last year, they were met with a very big surprise.
“We had set up a small green room with a video of the band Marianas Trench performing a song. The teams had to learn a portion of the song and perform it,” explains Simon Williams, the event organizer with Joel Hock, president and CEO of social cause marketing and events company, Solutions with Impact.
What the competitors didn’t know: they were about to be judged by the Canadian pop rock band themselves, sitting outside on the dock.
“This kind of surprise, coupled with a great cause, really gets people inspired,” laughs Simon. “It’s why the Boat Rally has stood the test of time.”
Joel founded the Boat Rally nearly 10 years ago. Today, the event raises funds and awareness for cancer research and youth mental health.
Each Boat Rally team is challenged to raise a minimum of $10,000 to participate in the activities at multiple stops on Lakes Joseph and Rousseau, followed by an evening gala with food, entertainment, and live and silent auctions. Teams that top $20,000 are also invited to draft a celebrity navigator. Actors Billy Baldwin and John O’Hurley, former NHL player Gary Leeman and musician Kardinal Offishall are among those who have participated over the years.
Revolutionizing cancer detection and diagnosis
Sunnybrook was a proud first-time beneficiary in 2022, receiving more than $280,000 from the Boat Rally in support of the Odette Cancer Program’s highest priority needs and prostate cancer research led by Sunnybrook urologist Dr. Robert Nam. The generous gift made the Boat Rally Sunnybrook’s largest community fundraiser of the year.
Among many benefits, the 2022 funds helped to purchase advanced image-fusion technology that identifies specific areas for biopsy of the prostate. The technology does this by fusing relevant information from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound.
The remarkable tool has reduced prostate biopsy wait times from six months to six days – as well as much of the fear and uncertainty experienced while awaiting a diagnosis. It allows Sunnybrook’s teams to quickly tell the difference between aggressive and slow-growing prostate cancers, and helps prevent potentially unnecessary procedures or repeat biopsies.
By funding the Odette Cancer Program’s highest priority needs, the Boat Rally is also supporting advances in precision oncology as Sunnybrook strives to discover new ways to deliver personalized cancer care, from diagnosis and planning all the way to treatment and recovery.
More unforgettable pit stops to come
The 2023 Boat Rally in August featured more unforgettable pit stops, an electrifying “MuskokaBiza” Ibiza-themed after-party – and another major gift for Sunnybrook Foundation.
“We know funding for cancer research makes all the difference,” says Joel. “We are fortunate to have such a committed group of families and friends ready to get out on the water and turn fundraising into pure fun.”
A Sunnybrook initiative provides research opportunities and mentorship to Black and Indigenous medical students