Before he lost his battle to cancer, Sam lobbied the government to make PET Scans free. After he made that happen, he shifted his focus to acquiring a machine for Northeastern Ontario, located in Sudbury.
A PET is a medical detection tool used in clinical oncology (tumours and metastases), brain diseases (various types of dementia) and heart disease. It is also an important research tool to map normal brain and heart functions. Of the nine machines in Ontario, one is located in Thunder Bay; the rest are in southern Ontario.
Sam's brother, Frank, was at the gala dinner, where he said he was “extremely honoured to have so many people be part of the bigger picture.”
“It's nice to know we're not alone,” he said. “We have a team.”
Frank said the third annual event, which sold out the upper hall of the Caruso Club, was estimated to raise $60,000 for the cause.
“(Sam) would be very proud,” Frank said. “But he'd be disappointed in the ministry in power right now. They're not listening to what the people are requesting. He'd be disappointed in his government for not having a scanner at this point — not in the people.”
Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gélinas spoke at the event, alongside Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, about the party's commitment to fulfilling Sam's vision.
“The government of Ontario has no business forgetting (Northern cities),” Horwath said. “Fair is fair, and this is what this is about.”
Northeastern Ontario is the only region in the province without a PET Scanner. That means people battling cancer and other diseases have to travel south to receive the diagnostic test, often when they are too sick to even leave home.
“People that are sick shouldn't have to travel that far,” Horwath said. “It is simply asking too much — it's bordering on inhumane.”
That was the entire theory behind Sam's fight.
“He wrote the letters,” Horwath said. “He made the calls. He made his point loud and clear.
“It is about equality.”
So far, Sudburians have supported Sam by raising more than $250,000. A PET Scanner is still a long ways away, as the pricetag on the machine is near the $3.5-million mark.
While there is still a long way to go, Horwath said watching the community come together for a cause is a prime example of people wanting to see Sam's legacy come to life.
“(Everyone is here) to really make the point that this is a struggle worth keeping up,” she said. “We're going to make sure the PET Scanner comes to Sudbury.”
Sam passed away July 15, 2010 at the Maison Vale Hospice after a long battle with cancer. He was 54.