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How Cops for Cancer helped one B.C. family’s childhood cancer journey

Samantha Donovan’s family was able to stay together during her treatment thanks to the charity
Allison, Tyler and six-year-old Samantha Donovan at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver in 2016. (Submitted)

Samantha Donovan was four years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow cancer, Burkitt leukemia.

Any family who has faced a childhood cancer diagnosis knows how hard the road can be. It’s all hands on deck with love and emotional support, along with the practical challenges of keeping the family together.

So Samantha’s blended family from Kamloops of her father Tyler, adopted mother Allison and Samantha’s two sisters were in for a great many road trips to BC Children’s Hospital, the only hospital dedicated to children in the province.

The only way the family was able to stay together through her treatment was with the help of the Cops for Cancer program that helped fund their stay at Ronald McDonald House.

“It was life-changing to be able to keep our family together,” Allison said. “That’s what was needed and to stay at Ronald McDonald House was the only semblance of childhood that Sam had.”

Allison said the family had exhausted all other sources of funds. Neither she nor Tyler could work while staying in Vancouver, so the charity which is a partnership between first responders and the Canadian Cancer Society was crucial.

“Their funding allowed us both, my husband and I, to stay with her.”

What happens to many families who need to go to another city for treatment is that one parent stays behind to work. Cops for Cancer funding let the Donovans all stay together, which Allison says was crucial during little Samantha’s 13 months of painful, intrusive cancer treatments.

“She endured about 13 months in total in hospital. She had a bone marrow transplant in 2015 and then relapsed again on her sixth birthday in 2016. She passed away seven weeks later.”

Allison describes her daughter as a little girl who was full of life with a huge personality.

“She commanded the room. Her doctors and nurses called her their ‘spicy child.’”

If it wasn’t for Cops for Cancer, Allison said the sad experience would have been that much harder for their family.

“Sam was in hospital for most of the time and that is a lot for one parent to take. You are living on a mat on the hospital floor back in the day. Having both of us for emotional support, we needed to be together.”

The 22nd annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley is taking place this week. It started on Sept. 20 and wraps up Friday, Sept. 24 in Surrey.

A total of 17 law enforcement and emergency services personnel cycled 500 kilometres across the Fraser Valley in support of the Canadian Cancer Society while raising money for childhood cancer research and support services for families affected by cancer.

READ MORE: Cops for Cancer cycling across the Fraser Valley

To learn more, pledge a rider or make a donation, visit

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