Don Whitty

Dropped in for a day, stayed for four years… and counting

One day, Don Whitty tagged along with his son to a BRIGHT RUN volunteer gig at the Dundas Cactus Festival. Isaac needed to gather volunteer hours for high school.

Four years later, Don keeps coming back, staffing BRIGHT RUN tents at local festivals, setting out road signs, encouraging people to get involved and helping with set-up, take-down and whatever else needs doing on the day of the event. Isaac also continues to participate when he can.

“I enjoy interacting with people and have always thought of myself as a people person,” said Don, a procurement clerk in the St. Peter’s Hospital purchasing department.

Don’s involvement in the BRIGHT RUN started by chance at the first meeting of the Juravinski Cancer Centre’s Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), where he met BRIGHT RUN event chair Nancy McMIllan. At the time, Isaac, who will attend the University of Guelph in September, needed volunteer hours for the high school community service requirement. Don signed him up, went along with him to the Cactus Festival, and got hooked on BRIGHT.

While there is no direct family connection to breast cancer, Don is a seven-year survivor of tongue cancer.

“I had a little tough patch to get through in my battle, but nothing compared to so many of the other stories I have heard since,” he said. “I still get choked up when I hear the individual stories from survivors and the families who carry on caring.

Don has worked for Hamilton Health Sciences for almost 28 years. He has spent the past five years at the St. Peter’s site, involved in purchasing “everything from nuts and bolts to heart valves for the hospital.” Customer service is a big part of Don’s job with both the vendor and the end user of any given product.

An avid collector of Haida west coast art, Don, his wife Sandra and their son enjoy travelling overseas, visiting Zimbabwe, South Africa, Spain, England and, soon, Sweden.

His own cancer diagnosis has had a lasting impact on Don.

“Once you’ve been diagnosed, it triggers something inside you,” he said. “You want to help in some way or share a story or just be there for someone.

“Reaching out to hear someone’s story, share a smile, share a tear, or just get a donation for the cause – that’s what we’re here for.”