COUGAR HUNTING IN TORONTO

9:00 – Crocodile Rock was already filling up nicely. Their patio is popular and comfortable. It was my job to go around the bar and sell raffle tickets and let people know about the event happening on the 2nd floor. I received a warm welcome every time I mentioned either Miss Cougar Canada or Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto. People laughed, handed over their money and thought the event was a great idea.

gilda groupAugust 2013, my friend Jules “Cougar Meow”, a Toronto event planner, was diagnosed with cancer. When she told me this spring she was working on the event Miss Cougar Canada, I let her know that I wanted to be involved and help any way I could. She was happy to have the company. Working on the event was keeping her mind off of what was happening with her health and gave her something fun to look forward to.

Jules organized prizes and sponsorship. She worked with Gilda’s Club to make the event a fundraiser to support Cancer patients. She organized a celebrity author and actor, and a music producer to attend. She organized women to participate in the competition and received commitments from enough men who were looking forward to a fun night. We had done a good job promoting through social media and received lots of feedback.

As the date of the event, June 26, drew closer, Jules’ doctors told her they wouldn’t be able to put off operating on the tumor in her neck that had now wrapped itself around her thyroid. Jules had no choice, but to reschedule the event.

group9:30 – Jules came to find me on the patio to tell me none of the Cougars had arrived yet. I had been doing really well selling raffle tickets and people were heading over to the second floor to see the competition. Unfortunately, when they got to the second floor, nothing was happening. I needed to stop working the floor and wait.

Rescheduling the event to July 24th wouldn’t have been a problem if the operation had gone well. The surgeon tested the tumour he removed and found Jules’ cancer had progressed to the next stage. Jules had a hard time coping emotionally with this new information. She became depressed. She wasn’t able to stay on top of communicating with everyone about the event. She closed herself in her room for a while and disappeared. Unfortunately, Jules also developed a blood infection. The complications from cancer treatment can often times become as deadly and hard to manage as the disease itself. She was very sick.

Finally, Jules reemerged and contacted her team to finalize the event details. Her doctors were telling her she needed to get into the hospital for treatment for the infection, but she wanted to have the event. She was looking forward to it. It was going to be fun!

contestant 110:30 – Crocodile Rock had filled up. The band was on stage and the crowd was having a good time. Still no Cougars. The men that were there for the event were having fun anyway. Socializing, drinking, eating, and playing pool. But everyone was waiting for a show that apparently wasn’t happening. I sold more raffle tickets and we just made the most of it. Vice Magazine was there and Jules sat down for an interview.

contestant 2A group of young ladies representing Gilda’s Club were in attendance. Jules asked the ladies, there were lots of prizes, why didn’t they compete for them? The girls agreed. I took pictures while the judging took place. It was a laugh. The girls were announced, pirouetted and smiled. The men laughed and clapped and one Cougar was crowned.

winner111:15 – Miss Cougar Canada received her crown.

Kelly Arruda, Miss Cougar Canada 2014
Kelly Arruda, Miss Cougar Canada 2014

It was disappointing that the Cougars who had committed didn’t show up to compete, but in the end, it didn’t matter. The event made a very loud statement about people working together through difficult times and continuing to smile and have fun. It made the point that you are not always in control; things can go wrong – persevere. It made the point that when you need support, Gilda’s Club is there.

winner2

Donations of money, time and talent have kept Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto open since 2001. Their free support program exists entirely thanks to volunteers, revenue from special events and the financial support of inviduals, foundations and corporations. To donate, clink on this link.