Cancer Survivors Launch Fundraiser

By Sara Faruqi, Toronto Police Service Published: 6 a.m. January 15, 2015
Updated: 10:59 a.m. January 15, 2015

Staff Sergeant Chris Boddy is sporting a new hairstyle this week, as he shaved his head to kick off the 19th year of Cops for Cancer at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre on Jan. 14.

A family, mother, father, son and daughter smiling and looking straight into the camera.
Cancer survivor and Toronto Police officer Suzie Fox-Vignarajah with her husband Ganesha Vignarajah and children Alicia and Kiran.

Boddy, who lost an aunt in December to cancer, is shaving his head for the seventh time in support of the cause for the Canadian Cancer Society. Being the first officer to get his head shaved, Boddy was quickly able to get donations right then and there from the audience, who pooled donations totalling to $625 in a matter of minutes. The mark Cops for Cancer aims for this year is $100,000. 

Deputy Chief Mike Federico, who has championed the cause for years, spoke at the launch on the importance of donating to the  Canadian Cancer Society. 

“We all have personal stories and personal stakes in promoting healthcare and reducing the instances of cancer,” said Federico, who lost his father, Arthur, to cancer and whose wife, Debby, is a cancer survivor. “I want to encourage people who are suffering and helping those suffering, to access the Canadian Cancer Society – a great resource not only for peer support and services to individuals who need the care but, of course, they also fund research which is so important for the cure of cancer.” 

A man wearing a hairdresser gown smiling at the camera as his head is being shaved by a man in a Toronto police uniform.
Staff Sergeant Chris Boddy gets his head shaved by Deputy Federico at the launch of Cops for Cancer at Yorkdale Shoping Centre

Standing in the audience as the Deputy spoke was Constable Suzie Fox- Vignarajah, who knows the importance of research and a cure. Fox- Vignarajah was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer just eight months into her career as a police officer at 22 Division. While battling the disease, Fox- Vignarajah heard about Cops for Cancer and decided to take part. Unfortunately, after raising funds, when the day came around to shave her head, she had lost all her hair already. Her young son, Kiran, nine at the time, stepped in for his mother and had his head shaved. 

“I did it for my mom,” says Kiran, now 13, softly. 

Now, four years into recovery, Fox- Vignarajah’s daughter, nine-year-old Alicia, will be cutting off 13 inches of her hair to donate to wigs for cancer victims. Their father and Fox- Vignarajah’s husband, Ganesha  Vignarajah, who works as a Court Officer for the Service, will also be doing his part by raising funds for the cause. 

Speaking on how the disease affected her family, Fox-Vignarajah said it “crushed the family… all they know of cancer is you die… so this has shown then that a diagnosis of cancer doesn’t necessarily mean it affects the rest of your life.” 

Fox-Vignarajah thinks it made her children stronger. 

“I think it’s made them realize the importance of donating to help for causes.”

For Vignarajah, it is all about giving back. “When my wife got diagnosed with cancer, she had just got on the job – it was quite the struggle but we had a lot of support from work and from family and friends, which made things a lot easier and my wife just had to concentrate on getting better,” said Vignarajah, explaining how the family coped with the disease. “Everything else got taken care of.”

He said fundraising is their way of giving back.

Three uniformed TPS members standing in front a poser that reads "cops for cancer"
Staff Sergeant Chris Boddy smiles after getting his haircut alongside Inspector Hegedus (L) and Staff Sergeant Charles, who is a cancer survivor

Also in the audience was Staff Sergeant Anthony Charles, a cancer survivor himself, and one of the first cops to shave his head for the cause 19 years ago when the initiative was launched. Charles, who was diagnosed in 2011 and beat the disease, says he feels even closer to the cause now, having been through the ordeal himself. 

“It means a lot more now,” explained Charles, of his desire to raise donations for the Canadian Cancer Society. 

The head-shave will take place on April 18 at Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

Cops For Cancer Toronto Fundraising Page

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