Fort McMurray answers the call

By VERNA MURPHY, Connect Contributor

The firemen of Anzac and Fort McMurray, with additional family members, gathered for a charity hockey game - Bro’s on Blades Battling for Bo - for Bo Cooper on December 19. Over $100,000 was raised during the event, which included a dance and silent auction at the Anzac Recreation Centre. SUPPLIED PHOTO

The firemen of Anzac and Fort McMurray, with additional family members, gathered for a charity hockey game – Bro’s on Blades Battling for Bo – for Bo Cooper on December 19. Over $100,000 was raised during the event, which included a dance and silent auction at the Anzac Recreation Centre. SUPPLIED PHOTO

The community knows that when a call goes into a fire hall, the firemen respond without hesitation. For the last few weeks, the call for help has gone out to the community of Fort McMurray for one local hero, Bo Cooper, and Fort McMurray has been responding in a big way.

“When I decided to create the GoFundMe account, I knew that there would be a strong response just because of who Bo is, and how great his family is, but I had no idea how incredible the response would be. And it’s not because I didn’t have faith in the community, but it is a big ask. It’s been amazing,” said Rob Van Hecke, a fellow firefighter and friend of the Cooper family for years.

On December 19, a charity hockey game, silent auction and dance were held at the Anzac Recreation Centre, and while the final numbers were not in at press time, Van Hecke knew that over $105,000 was raised in the one evening.

And the fundraising will continue.

“In just over three and a half weeks, we are sitting at almost $400,000. We are not use to asking for help, unless it’s for fundraising that is given back to community groups, so it has been different, and the support has been tremendous in a short period of time,” said Van Hecke.

“In just over three and a half weeks, we are sitting at almost $400,000. We are not use to asking for help, unless it’s for fundraising that is given back to community groups, so it has been different, and the support has been tremendous in a short period of time,” said Van Hecke.

Cooper, who was in Calgary receiving treatment, travelled to Maryland with his wife, Irish and his parents, Carla and Rob on December 18.

Unfortunately, a bone marrow aspiration – that was done in Calgary – was sent to Maryland for testing, but lost along the way by Purolator.

When the doctors in Maryland heard, they suggested that Cooper make the trip to their facility for further testing. It will be at least two weeks of testing before they will know if Cooper can undergo the CAR-T Cell treatment. It’s this treatment that is unavailable in Canada, and costing so much.

“When we first started this fundraising, we really didn’t know the costs because the hospitals were reluctant to talk about it. When Rob Cooper was researching and calling around, one of the responses that he got was that no one asked about cost because, in the U.S., you either have insurance or you don’t. And if you don’t have insurance, people don’t usually follow up. We were unsure of the dollar amount, but now in talking to others that have had the treatment, and we have more information we know that it will probably be in the $650,000 range, and that’s American,” said Van Hecke. With the exchange rate, the final total will jump to over $900,000.

“While we have raised a tremendous amount, we still have to continue to raise some money, and I would like to get that GoFundMe account to $500,000,” added Van Hecke.

The Cooper family has been overwhelmed with the community support. Carla Cooper, Bo’s mother, Rob, his father and Bo’s wife, Irish have been posting updated on Facebook.

When Connect asked if they wanted to say anything to the people of Fort McMurray, Carla responded:

“It has been heartwarming and overwhelming to see the response of my family, the fire department family, my friends, acquaintances, and those who I have never met,” she said. “I am a firm believer in hope and the goodness in others and have seen it like never before, for us and for Bo.”

“It has been heartwarming and overwhelming to see the response of my family, the fire department family, my friends, acquaintances, and those who I have never met,” she said. “I am a firm believer in hope and the goodness in others and have seen it like never before, for us and for Bo. When you believe in yourself, and have the hope from others, the sky is the limit… and in this case, the treatment that Bo and others deserve become a reality.”

The CAR T-Cell treatment has been in studies and research for almost 10 years in the U.S., and it is showing a 90 per cent success rate among patients who receive it.

In the New Year, events will continue when the firemen hold an online auction, Atmosfere will host a ticketed dinner on January 2, 2016, and there are countless of other projects online. Another fundraiser is being held by the recycling depot at Taiga Nova and residents can donate their recyclables to Cooper.

For up-to-date information on community events, visit the page ‘Bo Cooper Leukemia Treatment’ on Facebook.

– Connect Weekly –