By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - Glengarry came out in droves to support five-month-old Emma McCuaig as she battles a rare form of eye cancer.
Upwards of 500 people packed the McCuaig Miracle Benefit on Saturday at Best Western Cornwall to help offset the costs of her chemotherapy treatment at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Emma and her parents, Tim McCuaig and Shonna Atchison, both with strong ties to Glengarry and Cornwall, were unable to attend due to her treatment schedule. But Seaway News caught up to Emma’s mom the day after and she was overwhelmed by the outpour of support.
A live auction raised a total of $27,150. The combined final tally including funds from a silent auction and cash donations will be announced in the upcoming week.
Tables were lined with spectacular items for bidders, including: a keg of beer at Montreal's Hurley's Irish Pub (75 pints), NHL signed memorabilia and a chance to meet NHL stars, 'Emma's Quilt of Hope,' multiple luxurious weekend getaways, an Ottawa Senators VIP practice pass, and a one-year deluxe membership at Summit Health & Fitness, to name a few.
“It really makes us proud to be part of such a generous and loving community,” said Atchison. “We are grateful to be surrounded by such great people.”
Emma has been diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a disease that mostly affects children under the age of five, of these more than 60 per cent are under the age of two. The Canadian Cancer Society stated the disease accounts for about 3 per cent of all cancers that occur in children younger than 15 years of age.
Atchison explained that Emma has sight in one eye, and her team of doctors at Sick Kids are doing their very best to preserve that vision. Her other eye has very limited sight, and they are still unsure of what the future holds.
“Emma has been a real trooper over the last couple of months. She has had many tests and procedures under anesthetic, along with treatments and she is staying strong,” she said. “Children are so resilient and we are seeing this first hand.”
Chelsea Hope, lifelong friend of Atchison, organized the event to help ease the burden of travelling to Toronto every 21 days for her chemo and laser treatment.
“They re-evaluate her progress decide next steps at each visit, so we really are unsure of how long her treatment will take,” said Atchison.
Longtime friends David Thompson, Hope’s father, and Garry Atchison, Emma's grandfather, watched their children grow up together in Williamstown.
"This is the reason we live in small communities, everyone takes care of each other," said Thompson.
Both Atchisons are connected to the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB). Garry is a retired principal, and his daughter is a teacher at Eamer’s Corners Public School.
Kevin Cooper, fellow UCDSB retiree, was one of hundreds in the crowd enjoying the energetic sounds of Glengarry Celtic rockers Bang On The Ear.
Cooper and Garry worked together in 2012 in the school board’s Beyond 21 initiative, assisting young adults living with developmental disabilities access a variety of community services.
“The amount of people here is a testament to the respect they have in Glengarry,” he said referring to Emma and her family.
Beverley Runions, from South Glengarry, has spent over 40 years watching the close-knit county band together in moments of crisis. She never misses a community gathering.
“It’s important to show the family we’re all here for them,” said Runions.
Hope has also helped put an ongoing trust fund in place for the courageous little girl. Anyone can donate by visiting a Scotiabank location and making a cheque payable to Emma McCuaig; account #501120329983.
"I poured myself into the event because this family is close to my heart, and I couldn't be more pleased with how well the whole night went," said Hope.