Each year the B.C. Cancer Foundation raises tens of millions of dollars for research and now the charity is looking to raise its profile in Prince George.
The foundation, which acts as the fundraising arm of the B.C. Cancer Agency, recently opened its local office. Mark Barnes has been tasked with growing the foundation in the region and educating people about what it does.
"The mandate for the B.C. Cancer Foundation is simple, we raise funds to support cancer research and care for the BC Cancer Agency," Barnes said on Wednesday from his office at the B.C. Cancer Agency Centre for the North. "We raise funds for one organization only."
Barnes has been on the job for a few months and his initial focus has been to build personal connections with people in the community.
Cancer research in the region got a kick start a year ago with the creation of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy and has grown with the opening of the cancer centre. B.C. Cancer Agency regional administrator Pamela Tobin said opening a foundation office was the next logical step.
"Once the centre opened, we got even more research happening and with the foundation now here as well that will continue to grow," she said. "For a new centre there certainly is a lot of research happening."
The foundation and the cancer agency work hand in hand to determine how the money should be spent, but Barnes said donors can also direct their dollars to a specific site like the Centre for the North.
"Each centre has a priorities group, led by the researchers, and they determine the priorities for each centre," Barnes said. "The foundation doesn't actually choose which research projects are funded, we just find the money for each of the researchers projects."
One of the challenges the foundation faces is entering a new market with established charities that already have strong ties to the community. Barnes and Tobin said they want to emphasize how the cancer foundation is different from what already exists in Prince George.
"I think it's important to note that we're focused on research and a lot of our other partners in the community have different areas of focus for their donor dollars," Tobin said.
Once the foundation is more established in Prince George, Barnes said it will begin to host fundraising events.
Among the groups Barnes has reached out to is the Wheelin' Warriors of the North. The cycling team headed by Karin Piche raised close to $100,000 last year as it made its debut in the Ride to Conquer Cancer and Piche is already organizing for next year's ride.
"I have a lot of resources on my side that I can help her with," Barnes said. "We're just trying to build networks to try to make 2014 a success as well."
Anyone seeking more information about what the foundation does can visit its office at the cancer centre weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or by calling 250-645-7300 ext 687469.