Volunteer makes immeasurable contribution to CCS
Eighty-three-year old Art Fletcher recently celebrated 25 years of volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“You could measure Art’s generosity by counting the number of hours, days, weeks and months that he has contributed – every day, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for 25 years,” says Randene Wejr, Regional Director for the Canadian Cancer Society in the Southern Interior Region. “Just imagine the impact on the bottom line when a skilled, full-time employee is not accepting a pay cheque!
“But Art is much more than that. He’s authentic and thoughtful in his work with donors and staff. He is a genuinely incredible human being whom we could all learn a few chapters on life from.”
Art first started volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society after moving to Kelowna in 1988. The year prior, he retired from a career in education as a teacher, principal and superintendent of schools in Creston, Edgewater, Fort St. John, Grand Forks and Lillooet.
“Four months after moving to Kelowna, my wife Norma and I saw an appeal for funds to establish a mobile mammography van for B.C. and decided to donate,” says Art. “When I took the donation to the Canadian Cancer Society office, I noticed about a dozen people sitting around a table and was told they were writing receipts for mail-in donations. I mentioned that I could do that and was ‘hired’ for half a day a week.”
Once the staff discovered that not only was Art willing to increase his volunteering hours, but that he also had computer experience at a time when many did not, his half-day a week rapidly became full-time.
Art began volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society “partly by chance” and because – like many Canadians – his family was affected by cancer.
“I had gone through surgery to have part of my thyroid gland removed because of cancer and Norma had surgery for breast cancer a few years before moving here,” says Art. “Since then we both have had additional surgery to remove cancers.”
Even more devastating than their own experiences, however, was the loss of Art and Norma’s second son Ron to melanoma. Ron had just completed a Master’s degree in Engineering when he was diagnosed and he passed away two years later in 1988 at the age of 26.
Over the years, one of Art’s daughters lost her husband to brain cancer and the other daughter’s husband has recently been successfully treated for breast cancer.
Although Art finds it difficult to name one particular moment that he’s most proud of during his time volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society, he does fondly remember the opening of the Southern Interior Rotary Lodge 16 years ago.
“The three organizations – BC Cancer Agency, Kelowna General Hospital and the Canadian Cancer Society – we all came together and raised over $5.7 million to build the Lodge. A large portion of that funding came from Rotary, and I had the opportunity to work with those donors. It was pretty impressive to be there for the opening.”
Art has also been a volunteer with Scouts Canada for 66 years and has, in the past, been involved as a volunteer with service clubs, his church, and other organizations. Throughout it all he raised two sons and two daughters with his wife Norma, and now he enjoys time spent with eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“There are times that my wife Norma asks me when I’m going to retire again!” laughs Art. “But you know, I think she’s ok with it as long as I’m happy. I try to keep her happy, and she tries to keep me happy – that’s probably why we’ve been together for 57 years.”
Art plans on continuing his volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society for what he says are “two basic reasons.”
“I enjoy doing what I do and the people – staff and volunteers – that I work with,” says Art. “The other reason is that I have great satisfaction in knowing that I am contributing to the eventual eradication of cancer and also helping those who are fighting cancer today.”
What would Art say to other people considering volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society?
“I’d say that I have seen up-close what the society does with funds raised and can see that much more could be done with additional funds in the areas of research, education, and support,” says Art. “Additional funds are made available through increased donations and also through a greater number of volunteers to raise funds, such as our door-to-door canvassing volunteers in April, for example.”
Wejr also believes strongly in the impact volunteers can make in the cancer cause.
“Obviously Art is unique,” says Wejr. “His 25-year career with the Canadian Cancer Society is an incredible contribution, especially considering he embarked on it after retiring from his first career.”
“We’re so thankful for every bit of time that each of our 15,000 volunteers in B.C. and the Yukon contributes to the cause. We couldn’t accomplish what we do, without the generosity of so many dedicated volunteers. And for this, we’re truly grateful.”
Canadian Cancer Society