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BMO charity golf tourney hits $1 million milestone


By Jackson Hayes

OAKVILLE, ONT.
– Anyone who has played in the BMO Automotive Finance annual charity golf tournament knows that Ray O’Kane follows the money.

The always-affable O’Kane, national director of retail dealer finance, takes great pride in knowing that unlike just about any other tournament, all of his participants know exactly where their donation is spent.

The funds raised at the previous five tournaments have been given directly to Dr. Greg Wells of Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. The caveat attached to the annual donation is that Wells has to return the following year to explain exactly how the money was spent.

And while the eighth annual installment, held at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont. on June 6, was certainly no different, it took on a more personal note for me as I revealed how the funds donated in year’s past ended up following me home.

In his presentation this year, Wells showed how he used money raised in 2013 to continue growing his lab and funding its torrid pace of research articles.

“Because there are no ties to this grant, it is like a free ticket for us to use in the best way possible,” he said.

A major highlight of his presentation this year documented the work his team has accomplished around the treatment of Cystic Fibroses. The research done in conjunction with his Exercise As Medicine campaign has helped rewrite the role of exercise in the management and treatment of the disease.

He also revealed that with over $200,000 coming from five years worth of golf tournaments (including the $38,000 raised this year) combined with all the creative grant maneuvering and funds matching secured, his team has raised over $1 million in the last five years.

I didn’t realize how my family fits into this story until hearing Wells speak at last year’s event. He was mentioning how a coil purchased with money raised from an earlier golf tournament had made the MRI machine at Sick Kids more powerful and accurate when it clicked for me.

My son Chase was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Kawasaki Disease in September 2012. He was six months old.

The condition causes inflammation in the walls of medium-sized arteries throughout the body, including the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle.

He initially received treatment at Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital before we were referred to a Kawasaki Disease specialist at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.

Despite catching and treating the disease within the vital 10-day time period, an echocardiogram of Chase’s heart revealed he had two coronary aneurisms.

I gave him two injections of a blood thinner and low-dose aspirin every day for six months to prevent a blockage from forming in the misshaped sections of the affected arteries. It wasn’t until an MRI taken at Sick Kids in February 2013 did we learn that his aneurisms had miraculously receded – an MRI that was made stronger by a coil purchased by Wells thanks to the donations from the BMO Automotive Finance tournament years earlier.

After sharing this story with O’Kane last year, he was gracious enough to let me speak to the crowd after the tournament this year. While I am sure I wasn’t as articulate as I could have been, I hoped I made my point clear.

It is easy to sign a cheque for a charity and never think of where that money goes. My family is living proof that even a little bit can go a long way.

And as if that were not enough, the winning group with the once-in-a-lifetime score of 64 consisted of myself with Manheim auctioneer Mike Kindiac and Canadian AutoWorld account manager, Ralph Ventriglia.

For more information about Dr. Wells’ efforts, visit www.drgregwells.com [1]

For more information on Kawasaki Disease or to help fund research, visit www.kdfoundation.org [2]