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, 8:00am to 4:30pm, for 25 years,” said 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.”
C 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,” he said.
“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 Fletcher 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.
He 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,” Fletcher recalled.
“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. He passed away two years later, in 1988 at the age of 26.
Over the years, one of Fletcher’s daughters lost her husband to brain cancer and the other daughter’s husband has recently been successfully treated for breast cancer.
Although Fletcher 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.”
Fletcher 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 and Norma raised two sons and two daughters, and now he enjoys time spent with eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“There are times that my wife asks me when I’m going to retire again,” he laughs. “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.”
Fletcher 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,” he said.
“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 Fletcher 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,” he said.
Randene Wejr also believes strongly in the impact volunteers can make in the cancer cause.
“Obviously, Art is unique,” said Wejr. “(But) 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.”