Located on a prominent corner a few blocks from Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital, the Island Prostate Centre regularly gets walk-in traffic asking what they do.
Until Parksville’s George Kenno arrived two years ago, however, the centre hadn’t seen six per cent of its annual funding stroll through its doors.
Following a chance visit to the centre while he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, Kenno and three golfing buddies organized the Blue Tie Golf Day benefit tournament at Morningstar Golf Club just outside Parksville.
In its first year, in 2014, it raised $11,500 for Island Prostate Centre. This summer, 100 golfers took part and brought in $24,500 more.
“I’ve been with the prostate centre for 13 years and we’ve never seen a situation like this,” said Leanne Kopp, executive director. “We’ll hear from people who tell us, ‘Oh, we should do something to help,’ then we never hear from them again. George walked the talk. We’re very fortunate to have a friendship and a relationship with George.”
The month of November has been given over to issues of men’s health, sparked by the “Movember” campaign of growing moustaches to raise awareness of and, ideally, funding for prostate cancer.
Kenno is attempting a moustache this month — “a little, stubby thing,” he said — but his major contribution takes place in late summer, through the tournament he organizes with Steve Boyle, fellow prostate cancer survivor Mitch Freko and Larry Kostyk.
Kenno, now 67, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2013. With his newfound awareness and Movember getting stared, he gathered 15 friends for a mini golf tournament. Each player chipped in $100, and the $1,600 was forwarded to the Canadian Cancer Society.
But when he travelled to Victoria to begin radiation treatment in January of 2014, he found himself walking from his rental condo to the hospital past the Island Prostate Centre.
“I didn’t really know about them, but I walked by all the time,” Kenno said. “At the end of my two months (of treatment) I decided to drop in.”
Peppering staff with questions, Kenno was introduced to Koop and learned the centre, which provides support services, resources and information, received no government funding.
Recently retired from a career in forestry and construction management, Kenno had time on his hands and a desire to give back. He began plotting the full-fledged tournament.
“Our tournament isn’t part of the international Movember campaign,” he said. “During this month money flies all over the place. But seeing this little outfit in Victoria, they needed our help. They’re trying to expand knowledge and education of prostate cancer.”
After the mini-tournament in December, 2013, Kenno realized he would need to aim for a summer event if he hoped to draw his 100-plus golfer goal.
There is an actual Movember golf tourney in the area that also benefits the centre. In 2011, the Bull Moose Classic, a cold-weather men’s tournament that had been held for decades at Eaglecrest Golf Club, began collecting for prostate cancer.
It has been renamed the Bull Moose Movember Classic and has raised $2,500 to $4,000 for the centre.
“We sell out pretty much every year, and it’s selling out earlier,” said Paul Kim, general manager at Eaglecrest. “The word is out; we’ve kind of taken it to the next level.”
Kim said former pro shop manager Brendan Burns saw the opportunity for the men’s tournament to play off the Movember theme, as the Bull Moose was typically held in late November, usually the weekend before the Grey Cup.
“The moustaches are coming in pretty good by the time the tournament happens,” he said with a laugh. “We just decided to have a cause for it, not just a good time.”
The Island Prostate Centre is thankful for the mid-Island’s contributions. With an operating budget of approximately $400,000 annually, Koop noted the almost $30,000 contribution from the Blue Tie and Bull Moose events make a substantial impact.
“That’s huge for us,” said Koop, who attends Blue Tie each summer to address and thank the players. “When you see a small, grassroots organization come through like this, it’s just amazing.”
The 2015 Bull Moose Movember Classic will be played this Saturday, Nov. 21. The 2016 Blue Tie Golf Day is Aug. 27.