The best way to begin this is with a simple fact: our Courage campaign in support of brain cancer research at Sunnybrook Hospital was a resounding success. Through the love and support of fans - Doug Gilmour's and the Tragically Hip's - together we were able to raise a lot of much needed research funds for a very important cause. But looking back on it now, we actually did - and learned - a lot more than that. A lot more than we thought at the beginning.
At Boon-Town, we want to utilize the power of the sports community to make the world a better place. Simple as that. By partnering with All Star athlete influencers, offering some world-class prizes and creating amazing one-of-a-kind experiences, we want to change the world for the better alongside all the incredible people that sport brings together as a community.
The Courage campaign was an amazing example of that community, and one that was a personal blessing for me to be a part of.
I grew up listening to the Tragically Hip. Some of my earliest memories are of road trips with my best friends' family, the Hip providing the soundtrack the entire way. My own parents were more into Springsteen and Elvis and Zeppelin, and in some way the music of the Tragically Hip became something my own. Something that I used to identify myself with. Maybe it's the unique lyrical stylings of frontman Gord Downie - perhaps it's the poetry of his words that touches a place that other music misses. Maybe it's the fact that the band enjoyed enormous success in my native Canada, compared to more modest following abroad - relatively speaking - that made their music so important to me. I'm not 100% sure and I doubt I ever will be. I've seen them twice live, and each time I was left with a wonderful feeling of inclusion and serenity that stayed with me for a long time after the show ended. Perhaps it's the fact that I CAN'T put my thumb on it that makes it so special to me, again, I don't know.
What I do know is that for me, the news that Gord Downie had been diagnosed with a rare and untreatable form of brain cancer hit me like a truck - as it did many in Canada. In 2016, a year mired with countless celebrity deaths, the news of the diagnosis hit me harder than anything else. Luckily, I was far from the only person who had been so deeply impacted by the band, it's singer and their music over the course of my lifetime.
One other such person, as we know, was Hockey Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour (ex-NHL player and legend in his own right): a man with a personal connection to the story, a desire to do whatever possible to help and the platform to make that possible. Out of Doug's desire, the Courage campaign was born. It all started with a simple request.
Needless to say the support from Doug's fans and fans of the band was enormous. Countless people gave generously and shared the campaign with their friends and families, who in turn gave what they could to support a wonderful cause. In my mind it was a no-brainer: give a little to allow researchers to continue to battle against a disease that impacts nearly 2 out of 5 people and in return you get the chance to visit Toronto, hit up a Leafs game with Doug and enjoy a one of a kind experience unparalleled in the minds of hockey fans.
Everyone who donated was immediately entered for a chance to win the grand prize - the aforementioned trip to Toronto with Doug as your All Star escort - and got some ridiculously cool, once in a lifetime merchandise as well. Canada Goose, being huge fans of the band and of Doug, threw some wicked winter headgear our way to offer up as well!
I wasn't wrong, but I wasn't entirely correct either, because the people giving their hard-earned money in support of our campaign were doing it for so much more than that. I realized that fact after we closed the campaign and determined our winner, Brad MacDonald!
To have a little bit of fun, we did some investigating in order to get in touch with Brad prior to announcing the winner and we had Doug call him personally. Here's the conversation they had - we definitely surprised Brad a little!
Seems about the way any of us would handle the situation, I think. An impromptu phone call from a man you've spent your life watching on TV and rooting for is bound to leave anyone a little bit lost for words!
It wasn't until after the phone call, though, when Brad reached out to us in a message that the gravity of what the campaign was all about hit home for me.
"It was my privilege to donate to this worthy and important cause," he said.
Not a word about the prize (Doug is Brad's favourite Leafs player) but rather an expression of how giving to support the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research at Sunnybrook made Brad feel.
Privileged. That took my breath away. And it's exactly how I felt when I was able to be a part of bringing Brad's grand prize experience to life a few months later. He arrived in Toronto with his partner, Courtney, and was as decent, humble and pleasant in real life as he was in all of our correspondences prior to that.
When the evening was all over it struck me what the entire campaign had been about. Prizes and having a good time played a part in it, of course, but more importantly I had made a new friend through the experience of the Courage campaign. That's the truth of it. The entire experience was a crash course in just how beautiful it is when people come together to try to help make a difference in the world. As a community of fans, we had mobilized and, in our own way, we HAD made the world a better place to be - and we'd had a blast doing it.
We wouldn't have been able to do it alone though, and it was the generosity of kind and caring fans like Brad and the thousands of other people out there who gave so freely, that we were able to achieve such incredible results. The love of the community came together in the face of a heartbreaking situation and breathed a new hope into everyone lucky enough to be involved. It truly was an honor to be a part of it, and is something none of us here at Boon-Town, Inc. will ever forget.
All of your efforts even got the folks over at Sunnybrook singing a little song in praise of your generosity, your compassion and your courage!
So from us, to everyone out there who gave so much, so freely to help make a difference in the world, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
The Boon-Town, Inc. Team