In the song “Are We Family,” from The Tragically Hip’s 1998 release Phantom Power, Gord Downie sings “Are we family, when it’s not if but when/Taking care of each other, one bullet to another/ When it’s all if a song can’t save us then nothing can? Are we family or what?”
When the band announced Downie’s cancer diagnosis Tuesday morning, many music fans around the world felt like it was a family member getting the news. Just look at the outpouring of love and support on social media.
The Hip is a band known not just for incredible live shows but for its generous nature. A quick search shows dozens of times over the years that the band has donated tickets, appearances, guest boxes, instruments and other pieces of memorabilia to various charitable auctions or organizations, from cafes to farms to the United Way. According to Alex Palermo of Queens Journal, the Queens University newspaper, the band’s first gig was a fundraiser for the Kingston Arts Council.
Don’t be surprised, then, if a number of fundraisers in support of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre start to pop up this summer as The Hip embark on their tour.
Don’t be surprised, also, if some of those fundraisers are organized by fans who just want to do something as a way of giving back to a band that’s given them so much.
Jen Greer is a New Jersey native who says she’s got Bruce Springsteen in her DNA the way many Canadian music fans have the Hip in theirs. Her introduction to The Hip was via another legendary Canadian musician and a friend of Downie’s, The Headstones’ Hugh Dillon.
“I heard ‘Now The Struggle Has A Name’ on Flashpoint and Hugh was in the video for ‘Bobcaygeon,’” she says. The song has a special place in her heart, but she’s unsure whether to call it magic or nostalgia. She points to a radio special back in March commemorating the 20th anniversary of Road Apples as a tipping point in her fandom.
“I was like, “hey, this song is good… so is this one… I REALLY like THIS one…OMG I need to hear EVERY SINGLE SONG THE HIP HAVE EVER RECORDED RIGHT NOW!,” she recounts.
Taking a turn for the serious, it’s the song “Courage” that really hits home. Greer is a melanoma survivor, diagnosed four and a half years ago. “Melanoma is one of those things that you can be free of for 25 years but all of a sudden it’ll come back—and it comes back with a vengeance,” she says. “When I read the news yesterday about Gord, it was like a punch in the gut… I just felt so hopeless.”
A few traded messages with The Hip’s management and Greer decided to start a fundraiser for Sunnybrook, hoping to raise $500 in support of the facility where Downie’s been treated and where his team of doctors is based.
“They said that the Sunnybook Foundation is where Gord’s lead doctor, Dr. James Perry, is conducting his research, and that they’d like for donations to go there. So this morning I set up the fundraiser and here we are,” she says. All the donations made via the page will be funneled directly to Sunnybrook.
During a press conference Tuesday morning, Perry praised Downie’s approach to treatment.
“Gord’s courage in coming forward with his diagnosis will be a beacon for all patients with glioblastoma in Canada,” Perry said. “They will see a survivor continuing with his craft despite its many challenges.”
Perry added that he was “quickly impressed by Gord’s resilience and courage…The news today, while sad, also creates for us in brain tumour research an unprecedented opportunity to create awareness and to create an opportunity for fundraising for research that’s desperately needed to improve the odds for all people with this disease.”
To make a donation via Greer’s page, go here.
For more information on the research conducted at Sunnybrook, check out the centre’s website here.
Information on the Canadian Cancer Society is available here.
Other fundraisers, if announced, will be posted here.