Fundraising Inspiration

Interested in fundraising for dementia research, treatment and care, but not sure where to start? Get some inspiration from these four Canadians who found creative and effective ways to raise money by combining their fundraising efforts with their personal passions. Whether that passion was athletic, artistic or in the garden, their efforts got people donating big. 


Maxime McLean, Duncan McLean and Alyx Stariha: The Runners

From left: Maxime McLean, Duncan McLean and Alyx Stariha. Photo courtesy Maxime McLean.

From left: Maxime McLean, Duncan McLean and Alyx Stariha. Photo courtesy Maxime McLean.

When Maxime McLean’s father, Duncan, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2017, she knew she wanted to find a way to raise money for an organization that provided resources, information and support to her family. 

Despite not considering herself a runner, McLean took on two challenges this year: she registered to race her first half marathon, and she created a team to participate in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon Charity Challenge, an online fundraising program that helps support Canadian charities as part of the race. McLean collected pledges for the Alzheimer Society of Calgary. 

This past May, she successfully completed the 21.1-km distance at the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, and her team, which included her father (who ran the 10-km distance) and Alyx Stariha, a family friend, raised almost $4,000.

“It’s really important for me to give back so the Alzheimer Society of Calgary can keep doing what they’re doing to help other families going through this,” says McLean.


Steve McNeil: The Marathon Skater

Marathon skater Steve McNeil. Photo courtesy Steve McNeil.

Marathon skater Steve McNeil. Photo courtesy Steve McNeil.

Steve McNeil, a Toronto-based amateur hockey referee, completed his first 19-hour and 26-minute outdoor skate in 2012 as a tribute to his mother, Eunice, who lived with dementia. The skate’s length acknowledges the year Eunice was born — 1926 — and it also symbolizes the endurance required by caregivers. 

In 2013, McNeil turned his skate into a fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. 

Every winter since 2013, he’s skated the distance while blasting AC/DC as a tribute to Malcolm Young, a member of AC/DC who lived with dementia and passed away in 2017. 

This past winter, he took the challenge Canada-wide. McNeil travelled to the seven Canadian cities that have an NHL team, including Calgary and Edmonton. McNeil skated for 19 hours and 26 minutes at an outdoor rink in each city. He also raised funds for each city’s Alzheimer Society branch, including $3,000 in Calgary, where on Feb. 16, 2019, he skated on the outdoor rink at Thomson Family Park in -33°C and a blizzard. 

It was during his Calgary skate that AC/DC-member Angus Young, Malcolm Young’s brother, learned that their music inspired McNeil during his endurance skates, so the band donated $19,260 to the cause.

McNeil has no plans to make his fundraiser easier. This coming winter, he hopes to complete his marathon skate in all 10 provinces — and to do it with his skates unlaced.

“It’s to show how difficult a day in the life of a caregiver is,” says McNeil. “Their day is a lot harder than me having to skate 19 hours and 26 minutes without tying up my skates.” 

Learn more at 1926skate.com


Bruce Horak: The Performer

Bruce Horak’s Assassinating Thomson. Poster courtesy Bruce Horak.

Bruce Horak’s Assassinating Thomson. Poster courtesy Bruce Horak.

Toronto-based theatre and visual artist Bruce Horak’s one-man show, Assassinating Thomson, premiered in 2013 at fringe festivals across the country. He brought it to Calgary this past February. 

The show, co-presented by Lunchbox Theatre and Inside Out Theatre, explores the mysterious death of the Canadian painter Tom Thomson juxtaposed with Horak’s own story — as an infant growing up in Calgary, he battled a rare cancer of the eye and currently lives with less than 10 per cent of his vision. 

As part of the performance, Horak live-painted a portrait of the entire audience, which was auctioned off after each show, with the proceeds going to charity.

During the show’s four-week run in Calgary, Horak raised $3,600 — the paintings typically sold in minutes — which he donated to support arts programming at the Alzheimer Society of Calgary.

“I have a passion for visual and theatrical art, and my maternal grandparents both had dementia, so I thought this was a really great direction to go,” says Horak. 


Ron Freckleton: The Gardener 

Ron Freckleton and Sarah Salus, director of philanthropy and engagement, the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, with dahlias. Photos courtesy Ron Freckleton

Ron Freckleton and Sarah Salus, director of philanthropy and engagement, the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, with dahlias. Photos courtesy Ron Freckleton

Ron Freckleton began growing dahlias when his wife, Joan, was diagnosed with dementia. After Joan passed away in 2014, Freckleton brought photos of his dahlias to his new home at Calgary’s Trinity Lodge Retirement Residence. Management was impressed, and he was soon asked to grow dahlias in the lodge courtyards.

Two summers later, Freckleton had the idea to use his gardening skills to raise money for the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, and, in 2017, the Adopt a Dahlia project was born. 

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Dahlia-lovers pay $10 to support the project. That investment gets their name typed onto a laminated plaque, along with the dahlia variety they have adopted. The plaque is then placed in the dahlia planter in the Trinity Lodge courtyard. 

Freckleton grows more than 20 varieties of dahlia — and more than 50 dahlias in total — meaning some planters can be full of plaques with the names of enthusiastic dahlia adopters. Last year, his Adopt a Dahlia project raised $1,700, a total he’s expecting to exceed this year. 

“I have such fun with Adopt a Dahlia, and it’s such a worthwhile cause,” says Freckleton. [ ]