LAC LA BICHE - The Road To Hope took Lac La Biche's Kevin Pare on a circuit around and around the Lac La Biche golf course on Wednesday. For the fourth consecutive year, Pare took to the fairways for a one-man fundraising marathon to raise money and awareness for the regional cancer-support organization.
Over the last three years, the event has helped to raise more than $100,000 for the Road To Hope charity that provides transportation services for area cancer patiens attending medical appointments. The funds have included matching contributions from Pare's employer Cenovus. This year, Pare realizes that stresses from economic and health factors have affected the donations.
Despite reaching his target of 100 holes played during his day on the course, Pare said his funds collected so far are lower than previous years.
"I'm still seeing some money coming in — but when it's totalled up, I'm expecting this year's will be significantly lower than other years," he said, but added that during difficult times, any amount of help is welcome. "I think even if you raise five dollars, it's still worthwhile to get out there and help."
On the night before he was to tee-up his first shot, the Lac La Biche's Kinsmen Club donated $20 for each hole he completed.
In a year like this, he said, that kind of local community financial support is very much appreciated, adding that the event is also an important way to get the Road To Hope name into the community.
"It's to raise awareness first, and to raise the money second," he said, explaining that his pink-decorated golf cart, his bright pink shirt and a few explanations about the cause as he plays through other golfers helps to highlight the Road To Hope organization.
Getting coverage in local media also adds to that awareness campaign.
"If it's on social media or in the paper, people will know that there is the Road to Hope out there and we are there to help," he said, explaining that even if people can't afford to donate funds to the program, the awareness might mean some people will donate time to help, or pass along information to others. "I just hope that people give what they can."
Ready to roll after tough times
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, and risks to vulnerable clients and volunteer drivers, Road To Hope has not been able to offer transportation services since May. Additionally, the cancel lation of large fundraising events like the annual Golf For Hope tournament in Athabasca and the Run for Hope in Lac La Biche has reduced funds coming into the organization, leading to the loss of the organization's executive director, the only paid staff member. Overall, it's been a very difficult year, said Pare — but continuing to raise funds and awareness is vital for when the wheels start to turn again.
"These are dire times. It's been a terrible year and people are hurting. So we have to keep doing the right thing, and hope to keep moving forward into better years to come," he said. "As people recover from all of these hardships, we are going to need the money we can raise for when we are going again."
He encourages anyone interested in learning more about the Road To Hope, or anyone wishing to donate funds or time to the organization, to visit their website. A link to the site is available in the digital version of this story at www.lakelandtoday.ca
Playing a round and around
Spending a day on Lac La Biche's 18-hole, lakeside golf course — especially a blue-sky autumn day on a course in the middle of northeastern Alberta's boreal forest — is a good way to raise funds, said Pare. But for an avid golfer like he is, the task did have some challenges.
"Good shots? Unfortunately, not too many. In fact, I don't think I hit two good balls in a row," Pare said the day after his 100-hole day, explaining that he doesn't keep a scorecard during the fundraiser — and had very few playing highlights to record anyway. "I started good early on with a birdie on number three, and I thought it was going to be a good golf day ... but that was my only birdie in 100 holes."
Golf shots aside, Pare said a tough round of golf on a beautiful day for a fantastic cause is better than most days.
"The weather was perfect, and this course — you can't ask for a better background," he said, adding that course pro Lance Palamaruk donated the cart and an unlimited supply of golf balls to the fundraiser as he has done each year. "I definitely used a few of those balls."
When this year's fund total is tallied, Pare and volunteer members of the Road To Hope board plan to announce their plans for the coming year.
Last year, Pare — who admits to struggling with his own health challenges this year — golfed 230 holes, and raised $33,000.