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6-year-old cancer survivor drops puck at Allan Epps tourney

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Jan 25, 2014 - 12:27 PM |
Six-year-old cancer survivor Carson Widdifield was invited to do the ceremonial puck drop Jan. 24 at the 17th annual Miners for Cancer Allan Epps Memorial Hockey Challenge. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Six-year-old cancer survivor Carson Widdifield was invited to do the ceremonial puck drop Jan. 24 at the 17th annual Miners for Cancer Allan Epps Memorial Hockey Challenge. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.

Miners for Cancer has raised $750,000 for cancer research

All through the summer of 2012, Carson Widdifield, who is now six years old, suffered through headaches so severe that they caused his eyes to swell up.

“He was screaming in pain all day, all night,” said his mother, Melanie Widdifield.

She and husband Justin brought Carson to various doctors, but nobody knew what was wrong with him. It was a pediatrician who finally realized he might have cancer, and he was sent to Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital for tests.

In mid-September of that year, the Walden Public School student was diagnosed with stage-four Burkitt's Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer affecting the lymphatic system.

It mostly affects children under the age of seven, and is twice as common in boys as it is in girls.

Carson spent two months at Sick Kids receiving chemotherapy treatments. “He didn't speak for two months when he was in the hospital,” Widdifield said. “It was his way of controlling the situation, is what the psychologist told us.”

While he did start speaking again after he was discharged from hospital and returned home to Sudbury, Carson still had to return to Toronto often over the next six months for more cancer treatments.

“It's horrible to see your child so sick,” Widdifield said.

Carson, who is now cancer-free, was invited to do the ceremonial puck drop Jan. 24 at the 17th annual Miners for Cancer Allan Epps Memorial Hockey Challenge.

Wayne Tonelli, president and co-founder of Miners of Cancer, said he chose Carson as the tournament's guest of honour because as a grandfather, it breaks his heart to think of a child having cancer.

“Cancer's a terrible, cruel disease, and it's so much crueller when it's a child,” he said.

Carson is a “miracle,” and is likely only here because of advances in cancer treatment available because of cancer research, said Tonelli.

Miners for Cancer, which has raised more than $750,000 since 1996, supports cancer research efforts funded by the Northern Cancer Foundation. The group's fundraising total is expected to hit nearly $1 million in 2014.

Besides the hockey tournament — which Tonelli expects to bring in at least $65,000 this year — it puts on yearly golf and baseball tournaments, a gala and other special events.

New in 2014 is a curling bonspiel, which is slated for later this winter.

All of the events have incredible support from Northern Ontario's mining industry, said Tonelli, who retired from Vale three years ago after a 40-year career.

The hockey tournament, which takes place at the T.M. Davies Arena in Lively from Jan. 23-26, has 24 teams and 360 participants this year. But Tonelli said he could probably expand the event even more, as he had to turn teams away.

Tonelli said he founded Miners for Cancer in 1996 with his “best buddy,” Allan Epps. Both were supervisors at the former Inco Ltd.

Epps was killed in a 2005 motorcycle accident along Hwy. 637 — the Killarney highway. The hockey tournament was subsequently named in his memory.

By coincidence, Widdifield grew up next door to Epps, and is close friends with his daughter, Julie. “So to be here is very special in many ways,” she said.

To learn more about Miners for Cancer's upcoming events, visit minersforcancer.ca.
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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