The Canadian Cancer Society and the Sunnybrook Foundation have reported that this summer’s tour by Canadian rock icons the Tragically Hip raised more than $1-million for brain cancer research.
Representatives from the Canadian Cancer Society say nearly $400,000 in donations have been received, while the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, through the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research, has reported $800,000 in donations.
The result stems from Hip frontman Gord Downie’s announcement earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a terminal form of brain cancer, news which was greeted by an outpouring of emotion and support from adoring fans over the last few months, culminating in a widely celebrated 15-date cross-Canada tour in August.
In giving not just their money but in many cases also their time, energy and good will, all those Canadians who supported brain cancer research with their efforts should be commended. First and foremost, this is the reality.
A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner, a sophisticated machine that is used to detect cancer, costs as much as $5-million. A month long national outpouring of grief only chipped in a fifth of the cost of one of these vital devices?
But we need to ask. Just a million? Really?
By comparison, a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner, a sophisticated machine that is used to detect cancer, costs as much as $5-million. A month long national outpouring of grief only chipped in a fifth of the cost of one of these vital devices?
Consider all the interest garnered by the events. From Downie’s diagnosis to the tour announcement, the ballooning ticket prices and the die-hard fans. Through all the parties and sold-out shows, all of it ending with a final concert in Kingston, Ontario, broadcast by the CBC and reportedly watched by 11.7 million people -no less than one third of the Canadian population.
Below: The Tragically Hip perform “New Orleans Is Sinking” for thousands of fans to celebrate their last stop on the Man Machine Poem tour in their hometown of Kingston, Ont.
And those are just the big-ticket events. Think of all the fundraising BBQs and bake sales that took place in every city and town across the country. The charity concert screenings at local bars, in public parks and auditoriums. The “In Gord We Trust” ball caps.
Are Canadians not so generous with their money? On the contrary, studies have shown that Canada ranks among the top handful of countries worldwide when it comes to charitable donations. A report earlier this year found that as a percentage of GDP, Canadians give 0.77 per cent, only behind New Zealand at 0.79 per cent and the United States at 1.44 per cent.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life relies on regularity and its well-oiled infrastructure to produce its donation numbers, which are upwards of $40 to $50 million a year.
Is it more the case that the $1 million is closer to the norm for this type of one-off event? The Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, for instance, one of the juggernauts of Canadian giving, relies on regularity and its well-oiled infrastructure to produce its donation numbers, which are upwards of $40 to $50 million a year.
Remember the ice bucket challenge? That was a blip on the viral radar a couple of summers ago. It raised over $20 million for ALS research in Canada alone.
There are various psychological quirks about donating and giving to charities, of course. People often refrain from giving when they are not 100 per cent convinced that their donation will be used effectively. They can be turned off from giving just by the way the charitable pitch is delivered. And people are less likely to give if there is no direct and personal connection to the cause.
But at the same time, studies have shown that giving is a social, contagious act. We are more likely to give when our friends are doing it. We can easily get caught up in the moment, pulled in by the emotional gravity of the situation – it’s called compassion. Plus, it feels good to give and we’re happier and healthier for it.
All of which leaves us still wondering about the $1 million. Again, it must be stressed that all those who donated have done a wonderful and generous thing. But who among us didn’t cheer and cry when Gord took the stage in Kingston? We were all caught up in the moment, pulled in by the gravity of the situation. Truly, it is not a stretch to say that over the past few months, Canadians experienced a real cultural moment.
But, $1-million? Surely Tragically Hip Fans can do better. Let’s start here, the donation page for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research.