Charitable Choices: Relay for Life and the Canadian Cancer Society

The Relay For Life is back in Toronto on Friday June 14 from 6pm-11pm in support of the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). In anticipation of the event, we chatted with some folks who have been involved with the organization in different ways. Nick Esterbauer is a survivor and now wants to give back by being involved in fundraiser and supporting the community he will forever be apart of. Anika Austrie works with CCS and is involved in the Relay for Life. Here is what they had to say about their charitable choices.

Relay for Life

Nick Esterbauer, Toronto’s CCS Community Champion

When did you join Relay for Life?

I’m looking forward to participating in my first Relay for Life event this year.  While I’ve never attended Relay for Life in the past, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences fundraising through physical challenges, including a cross-Canada cycling tour in 2011 and my first marathon, which I ran as part of the Canadian Cancer Society team in 2015.  In the context of Relay for Life, I find it inspiring to see the cancer community come together to raise funds that can make a real difference in the lives of survivors and caregivers alike, in the strong and supportive environment.  I hope that I’ll continue participating in Relay for Life for many years to come.

What made you want to get involved?

I’ve been volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Peer Support Program for the last five years and have witnessed the significant impact that services offered by CCS have on the well-being of newly diagnosed cancer survivors.  Not only that, but I am cognizant of the ground-breaking research funded by CCS events like this, without which many participants (including myself) would no longer be with us.  I’m always looking for reasons to fundraise in support of these meaningful causes, while also continuing in the journey of healing from my own cancer experience and helping other survivors.

What was it like when you were first diagnosed/going through treatment?

While every cancer experience is unique, diagnosis is always a shock and treatment is grueling.  I had invasive surgery followed by months of aggressive chemotherapy and experienced all of the typical side effects and more.  The treatment left me physically weak and emotionally confused about why I had experienced cancer, having been young, active, and otherwise in good health prior to my diagnosis.  At one of my first surveillance appointments, I was devastated when my oncologist told me that I should avoid long-distance running and cycling, activities that I had been passionate about in the past, because of permanent damage to my lungs that had resulted from treatment.  It took years to recover from some of the side effects of treatment and to get used to my new physical limitations, which seem to have diminished gradually over time.

What is your life like now?

Some days, it’s too easy to get caught up in the stresses of daily life.  While I’m now years out of treatment, I try not to forget that I am still part of the cancer community.  My work with the Peer Support Program reminds me that there are far too many Canadians going through similar things to what I experienced, and they are in need of support.  I find that my work with the Peer Support Program and fundraising opportunities like those available through the Canadian Cancer Society allow me to give some form of meaning to my experience by giving back to the cancer community.

Anika Austrie, Canadian Cancer Society

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer.

What problem does it aim to solve?

We are committed to improving and saving lives. That’s why we are always looking for new ways to prevent cancer, find it early and treat it more successfully. It’s why we’re always ready to give people with cancer the help and support they need to lead more fulfilling lives. For example our Wheels of Hope service covers 2 programs: Volunteer Driver Provided Program and Family Provided Program. These programs provide people living with cancer (adults and children) with rides to and from their treatment. A volunteer driver will pick them up and bring them home after treatment. People that use this service often refer to it as a lifeline.

How can our readers help?

Support the work we do by making a donation or volunteering. Visit our website ( often to see how you can help.

Sign up for Relay For Life in Toronto on Friday June 14 from 6pm-11pm. You can create a fundraising team or join as an individual. The event is fun and moving starting with the survivors walk where we cheer on survivors as they walk the first lap and officially launch Relay. The event comes to a close with the luminary ceremony at sunset where we pay tribute to those we’ve lost to cancer. Throughout the night there is food, drinks, activities and entertainment including games, fitness challenges and arts and crafts for the kids.

Do you have any events coming up?

Yes, Relay For Life! The Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life brings together communities, united by the same goal of creating a world where no Canadian fears cancer. These events are also an opportunity to celebrate those who live and have lived in the face of cancer and those moving past cancer.

Relay is a team fundraising event where team members take turns walking around a track or designated path. On and off the track there is always something to do at Relay For Life. Those taking a break from walking can check out the entertainment and activities. Whether, you are cheering on survivors, walking the track or joining in exciting trackside activities, Relay For Life is an unforgettable event!

Relay is a global movement to end cancer which is active in 29 countries and 6,000 communities worldwide, whereby participants commit to raising funds for work against all types of cancer.

Where can we follow you?

Facebook | Instagram

Why should I participate?

At the Canadian Cancer Society, we know that cancer changes people and that 1 in 2 will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. But a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to define a person. Our goal is to improve the cancer experience by helping people live longer and enhancing their quality of life. We believe that life is bigger than cancer.

Many of us have been directly affected by cancer and share a strong bond with others who experience the pain of this disease.

How can I get involved?

Register or donate at




About Joel Levy 2585 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography