Fifteen years ago a group of friends in Elliot Lake, Ont. put on a show to support their friend, Gregor McGregor, who was battling cancer at the time.
Gregorpalooza, as they called it, became an annual tradition. In the years since that first party, the event has raised more than $146,000 for 14 people battling cancer. The money helps them with travel expenses, and other support, when they have to leave Elliot Lake for treatment.
Vince Ucci was in his early 20s when he helped organize the first event in 2008.
“The initial thing was just unbelievable sadness because he [McGregor] was 21 years old, so everybody was just really, really sad,” he said.
“And then we started to want to do something to help him.”
McGregor made a full recovery and is now working as a teacher in the Northwest Territories.
But Ucci said not all the people they have helped have survived their battle with cancer.
“Which is kind of the nature of cancer unfortunately,” he said.
Helping an early supporter
This year’s recipient, though, is especially meaningful for Ucci.
When they hosted their first event in 2008, Ucci said not a lot of businesses wanted to rent their space to him.
“I was like 24 years old and probably didn’t have the best reputation,” he said.
But Jane MacDonald owned a venue in town at the time, and opened it up for the first Gregorpalooza.
“She eventually sold that business, but year after year she provided food at the event out of her own pocket,” Ucci said.
And now MacDonald has two cancers; an invasive ductal carcinoma and a form of sarcoma.
Ucci said she is undergoing chemotherapy for 16 weeks, which will be followed by radiation. For her treatment, she has to travel from Elliot Lake to Sudbury, about a two-hour drive away.
“I get a phone call every single day from somebody who tells me that they love Jane and they want to donate,” he said.
This year’s Gregorpalooza takes place on Saturday, Dec. 23, at the Collins Hall in Elliot Lake.