Heater’s He­roes keep fight­ing af­ter nine years

One of orig­i­nal kids to take part re­turns as in­spi­ra­tion for others

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Local - JOHN LAW John.Law@ni­a­garadailie­s.com 905-225-1644 | @JohnLawMe­dia

At first glance, she seemed like a shy ven­dor sell­ing muffins and cup­cakes Satur­day.

But at this event, Hai­ley Patrick of Fort Erie is one of The Orig­i­nal 13. One of the first can­cer-stricken kids to take part in Heater’s He­roes when it be­gan in 2011. One of the 13 kids Mike Strange ran a lap with at Oakes Park, rais­ing money to help chil­dren bat­tling can­cer.

Some of those orig­i­nal kids are now gone. The fact she’s still here — and now can­cer-free — prompts Patrick to re­turn ev­ery year to help out. She was one of them once, do­ing the track in a wheel­chair while bat­tling leukemia.

“I usu­ally do a lap with one of them,” she said. “To­day, my lap’s with one of the girls who also has leukemia.

“(I tell them) just hold on. Keep go­ing.”

Strange, who has be­come a city coun­cil­lor since that first event, beamed with pride over Patrick, who heads to Ni­a­gara Col­lege next month for bak­ing and pas­try arts.

“She looks like a model now, no­body knows she was ever sick. She should be telling her story in schools.”

Par­tic­i­pants from past years are a con­stant in­spi­ra­tion to the new kids.

The ninth an­nual fundraiser had eight new he­roes to run for Satur­day, in­clud­ing four-year-old Cole Bragg of Grimsby. Af­ter a can­cer di­ag­no­sis last sum­mer, he un­der­went intense treat­ment and is now in re­mis­sion. He ran the first lap with en­ergy to spare.

“I don’t re­ally know how I’m feel­ing,” said dad Mike, who walked along­side him. “It’s pretty emo­tional. I’m proud of him. Just hon­oured to be here with him.”

This year’s other seven he­roes were Jay­den Miller, Ke­gan MacPherson, Au­tumn Brown, Gavin Nagy, Carter Cun­ning­ham, Tren­ton Se­bas­tian and Lilly Coul­ter.

To them, said Strange, each lap at Oakes Park can seem mon­u­men­tal.

“When th­ese kids walk this lap, let’s give them a real big cheer,” he said. “This 400-me­tre lap is like them run­ning a marathon.”

Strange started the event to hon­our his friend Bob (Heater) Lavelle, who died 10 years ago. The tire­less owner of Clancy’s bar in Ni­a­gara Falls orig­i­nated the NHL Slo-Pitch Clas­sic at Oakes Park, and was a men­tor to Strange while he was an Olympic boxer in the ’90s.

“He had a big, big heart,” said Strange. “We miss him and we re­ally need to keep his legacy go­ing.”

The event was at­tended by MPP Wayne Gates, MP Rob Nichol­son, and most ev­ery mem­ber of city coun­cil.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate you need to lose some­thing be­fore you re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate it,” said Mayor Jim Dio­dati, who un­der­went his can­cer bat­tle last year. “If you lose a fam­ily mem­ber, you real­ize that’s the most im­por­tant that you have. Frills and lux­ury and trips and money, they mean ab­so­lutely noth­ing in the big scheme of things.

“Ev­ery day I get up, and if it’s rainy weather … I’m just happy I get to get up.”

JOHN LAW TORSTAR

Fort Erie’s Hai­ley Patrick did the first Heater’s He­roes fundraiser in a wheel­chair in 2011 while bat­tling leukemia. She was back — with founder Mike Strange — for the ninth an­nual event Satur­day.

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