When Constable Errol De Abreu joined the Toronto Police Service 16 years ago, he swore to do more than serve and protect.
The 43 Division officer also pledged to shave his head annually to raise money and awareness for cancer.
He has raised over $25,000 since 2000.
“My uncle succumbed to cancer last year, and I lost a good friend to the disease the year before,” he said at the 20th annual Cops for Cancer Toronto fundraiser on April 16 at Yorkdale Mall.
“But, even before they lost their battles, I knew of the seriousness of cancer and I made a commitment to cut my hair yearly when I became a police officer. I have done that every year since I am on this job.”
The disease touches many lives and has a devastating effect on families, as Detective Rob Barnett can attest.
Three years ago, his young son, Matyas, was diagnosed with liver cancer.
“He was just a year old and endured nine months of chemotherapy, testing and surgery before he was cleared,” said the 33 Division officer, who has been a cop since 2001.
“Eight months later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and he had to do more surgeries and chemotherapy. He has been cancer-free for the last 12 months.”
Barnett, the Toronto Police Service’s top Cops for Cancer Toronto fundraiser this year with almost $3,000, and his son shaved their heads. The officer also cut his beard, which he grew for nearly six weeks.
“This is the least I can do to support such a worthy cause,” added Barnett, who was assigned to 55 Division, the Financial Crimes Unit and 41 Division before joining 33 Division two years ago.
“While dealing with my son’s illness, I received great support from top to bottom at Toronto Police and I will be forever grateful for that.”
Andrew Stewart of Parking Enforcement West was the Service’s second top fundraiser with $2,925.
“This is a cause I really believe in because my mom is a cancer survivor,” said Stewart.
This is the first time I am cutting my hair, but it will definitely not be the last.
Since 2010, Inspector Chris Boddy has used social media to promote the fundraiser.
Last summer, his father – a retired fire captain – was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“It looks like he’s going to be fine, but we know so many stories where the ending is not so happy,” Boddy noted.
“We can’t solve crime on our own and we are certainly not going to overcome cancer without the participation of the community. We are going to be doing this every year because it’s a great event, but I always say I hope this is going to be the last time we do this.”
Time hasn’t fully erased the grief Constable Doug Leonard suffered after losing his grandmother and uncle to cancer.
“This is the fourth time I am cutting off my hair to raise awareness and find a cure for a disease that doesn’t discriminate,” added Leonard, also a member of the Chief’s Ceremonial Unit.
Kristina Lombardi, of Parking Enforcement West, raised $506 for this year’s campaign.
She donated a significant chunk of her hair to help make wigs for women who have lost their hair because of cancer treatment.
“This is the second time I have cut my hair and the first since I joined Toronto Police last year,” she said. “I did it because of the cause.”
Three years ago, Deputy Chief Mike Federico lost his father, Arthur, to the disease and his wife, Debby, is a cancer survivor.
For the past 11 years, the senior officer has been shaving his head for the annual Cops for Cancer Toronto fundraiser.
“The police mandate is to help create a healthy and safe community,” he pointed out.
“Part of that is disease control and eradication. Cancer is a scourge. I daresay not one of us in this group and the entire city isn’t affected by cancer. The work done by the Cancer Society to find a cure and support those who are suffering from the disease is work that is worthy of our support. I am extremely proud of our members and their enormous contributions to this cause.”
Led by Constable Cheryl Tomlinson-Thompson, 42 Division raised almost $8,000 for this year’s event.
“We are very passionate about this,” said Staff Sergeant Andrew Ecklund, who joined Inspector Dave Vickers in shaving their heads.
“Cheryl puts together a great team every year and gets everyone motivated. We are very proud of our Division.”
The bald-headed Ecklund, whose mother is a cancer survivor, wore a wig to the fundraiser.
For the 13th straight year, the TPS Chinese Consultative Committee (CCC) raised funds for Cops for Cancer Toronto.
have never lost sight of our roots and we have never lost sight of the fact
that cancer is still around,” said Superintendent Dave McCormack, who joined
fellow CCC chair Ben Lau in presenting a cheque for $1,000.
We will continue to donate to this cause, as long as we have to, until cancer is eradicated.
Started in Edmonton in 1994, Cops for Cancer is a national program raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society to fund research and support patients.
A total of $60,000 was raised at this year’s event.
Patricia North, chair of the Canadian Cancer Society Ontario division, thanked Toronto Police for their overwhelming support.
She said the money raised will go towards cancer research funding and support programs for individuals living with cancer.
“The money will also support our transportation program that helps patients get to their treatment,” added North, a cancer survivor.
“This past year, our volunteer drivers took cancer patients 13 million kilometres to their appointments.”
In the past two decades, just over $1 million has been raised to support cancer research.