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THE CANADIAN PRESS
People affected by cancer given chance for fun, hope

By Sarah McGinnis,
Calgary Herald


Giggles echo in the empty McMahon Stadium as a boy and girl toss a football on the pollen-dusted field.

Within minutes, hulking Stampeders lineman Taylor Robertson crosses the turf to join the game.

From a distance, the six-foot-plus, broad-shouldered football player appears to have little in common with Taran Terry, 9, and his eight-year-old friend Jenna Geransky. But their lives have all been linked by cancer.

Robertson wants to offer respite to cancer patients and survivors such as Taran and Jenna by inviting them to Stamps games.

"You go through a lot of tough times when you lose someone to cancer," Robertson said.

"Hopefully (attending a game) takes your mind off things and eases the stress of going through cancer treatments or grieving."

Starting this week, 50 season tickets have been reserved at McMahon Stadium for the Scotiabank Champions of Hope Fun Section.

Calgary Stampeders partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society and Scotiabank to create a section where cancer survivors, those battling the disease, and the families of those who died of cancer can watch a home game for free.

Robertson wished a similar program existed when he was young. His mother Mary-Ann died of breast cancer when he was seven.

Robertson has few memories of his mom, who was often in hospital during his early years.

"This is so when someone like myself is looking back they can remember going to Stampeders games. . . . If that's the one good memory they have, or one of the last memories and last pictures they have with someone, at least we have the chance to give it to them," he said.

The Champions of Hope Fun Section is also a celebration of life.

Taran and Jenna intend to inaugurate it in style.

As infants, Taran and Jenna each had Wilms' tumours, a rare type of kidney cancer.

Jenna was 10 months old when surgeons removed a baseball-sized tumor from her tiny stomach. Elsewhere at the Alberta Children's Hospital, a two-pound tumour was being taken from 16-month old Taran.

Their mothers Twila Geransky and Tammy Terry met at the hospital, each struggling to cope with their babies having cancer.

They formed lifelong friendship as their infants endured months of chemotherapy.

Eight years later, both kids are perfectly healthy.

With boundless energy and giant hugs, they accepted the first of many Champions of Hope game tickets from Robertson.

Taran has no doubt his team will win, while Jenna looks forward to joining the families to enjoy the game.

"This is gonna be great," she said. "It'll really make people happy."