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Once she puts her mind to something, Janet Hale tends to stick to it.
Take her career as a nurse in the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital. Janet admits, "I wasn't planning on being there that long. I was only going to be there a year or two and get some really great experience. " She's been there for the past 30 years, all with the same unit.
"There are just so many good things about working at UHN," Janet says.
Then there's the 2015 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC). This June will mark the 12th straight year she has been leading the medical volunteer team, something that began in 2004 when she asked to volunteer her expertize and "was just trying to help a little in the way that I could, and here I am."
"It's a really powerful event," says Janet, admitting it will be even more so this year since a close friend and colleague was diagnosed with cancer last fall. "When you go to the finish line and you see some really wonderful things, it's a really happy place to be.
"You get to say, 'The riders did all the work but I helped out a little bit."
With her infectious enthusiasm, Janet will be leading the medical volunteer team at the RTCC, which goes June 13 and 14 in support of research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. In 2014, the annual two-day cycling event, which spans 200 kilometres between Toronto and Niagara Falls, raised more than $20 million.
Throughout her career, Janet has supported numerous fundraising events held by The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation (The PMCF). Janet first learned about the events from a friend who had participated in The PMCF's inaugural Weekend to End Breast Cancer (WEBC, now Shoppers Drug Mart OneWalk to Conquer Cancer).
Janet's friend said it was a wonderful experience and encouraged Janet to participate for the second annual event. With weak knees due to a skiing accident, however, Janet couldn't walk for extended periods of time.
Volunteering for The PMCF
Determined to still support the event without actually walking, Janet later came across the opportunity to become a part of the medical volunteer team for WEBC.
"My friend suggested I join the medical team and a light just clicked on for me," she says.
She began volunteering for WEBC, doing more and more each year, and was eventually asked to run the medical team for WEBC. After a few years of continuous volunteering with tremendous enthusiasm, Janet was also asked to set up a medical team for RTCC.
"They needed someone who understood the responsibilities," says Janet.
There is inevitably a risk of accidents with a 200-kilometre route, especially under unpredictable weather conditions. Having the medical team at RTCC is vital.
"If the weather is rotten and the roads are slippery, that's when you have more tumbles and falls and brakes," thus making the need for medical volunteers even more critical, Janet notes.
The volunteers supporting RTCC and other events such as OneWalk are equally as committed as the riders and walkers participating, coming back year after year to support cancer research and treatment at the Princess Margaret.
Considering the travel required of RTCC volunteers, Janet says it's entirely worth it – a sentiment echoed by her team.
"Once you get there, see the riders, and feel what's going on with them, you know it was worth the commute," Janet says. "Each year it's like a big hug and you're so happy to see each other.
"It's a party every time because it's so good to be seeing these people in such a good way."
Janet notes that it's also quite therapeutic for everybody. Working in the critical care unit at TGH they see truly difficult situations in which people are really sick, so it's a great way for them to go out and experience something so influential and positive.
The riders always show volunteers and the medical team their appreciation.
"The Ride is a really cool event… [and] the riders love us. They're wonderful," Janet adds. "You really want to be there for them in return.
"It makes you feel so good to support these people who have raised so much money to conquer cancer."
As a health-care professional, Janet recognizes excellent patient care and has nothing but compliments for the Princess Margaret.
"Whenever I go to the Princess Margaret, you don't walk in there and feel this is futile," Janet says. "You always feel so well supported there. It's not what you think. It's a very positive place to be.
"When you go there, it's not all doom and gloom. For cancer care, it's a great and place to go."
Medical volunteers are needed for this year's ride. To find out more, contact: Alexa-Reigh Thompson
To find out more about RTCC for general volunteer information, please visit