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Tracy Neller turns tragedy into triumph in fight against cancer

For past 21 years, Neller and her Pretty in Pink team have raised funds for Princess Margaret Cancer Centre with Rockin' for the Cure on tap Saturday in Midland

Some experiencing tragedy can understandably fall into a deep well of despair.

And while Tracy Neller has experienced her own great personal upset with the loss of her parents to cancer, she managed to turn that tragedy into something positive and developed a strong passion for helping others.

The local realtor and her Pretty in Pink team are now busy preparing a tonic to help residents dealing with mid-winter blues with a night of music Saturday at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre.

“Rockin’ for the Cure has become one of our absolute favourite events to host,” Neller tells MidlandToday.

This marks the 21st year, Neller and her team are participating in the Weekend to Conquer cancer, an impressive commitment that Neller says couldn’t occur without the unwavering support of friends, family and “every single person” who supports their team events and helps them in their efforts to truly make a difference to conquer cancer in this lifetime.

"That’s my dream, our dream,” Neller said. “We have such an amazing team of friends who spend hours behind the scenes organizing these events to make sure that people attending have a great time and want to return year after year.”

Saturday’s event for those aged 19 and over kicks off at 7 p.m. with tickets costing $20 in advance and $25 at the door. All proceeds go to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. For tickets and to send an e-transfer, email [email protected] or text Neller at (705) 241-0270.

“We have two incredibly talented bands!” Neller says, noting that first up will be local favourites The Remedy. “They play such a wide variety of music guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor and to stay because the next song is a great one.”

The Remedy will be followed by “our amazing  headliner” The Jen Knight Band from Windsor.

“Her vocal range is insane," she says. "(They’ll) also be playing through a wide library of favourites that will promise to keep the dance floor packed all night long.”

Neller says when they started the music night five years ago, they wanted to try to create a night out that people would enjoy.

“Music brings people together and creates memories to last a lifetime. We absolutely love what we do and we have become very good at it.”

Besides the music, there will be a large dance floor, free photo booth, a prize table with a long list of donated items, cocktails and food.

Neller says that selecting the Toronto-based healthcare centre was an easy choice and stems from a client’s very touching and emotional story about a 60-kilometre, two-day fundraising walk she embarked on as a tribute to her sister who had cancer and was losing the battle.

“She shared so many amazing things about this walk and at that time I had already experienced so much loss in my own family passing from cancer and experienced friends losing their loved ones as well,” Neller says, noting it was then she decided to get involved in the fundraising walk.

At the time, Neller was becoming familiar with the Toronto hospital as her own father was diagnosed with two types of terminal cancer.

“To this day, I can’t remember the client's name and I never saw her again, but I truly believe I met her for this reason; to inspire me and tell me about a walk that would change my life. It has given me purpose when I felt lost.

“When you have a loved one battling this disease, well at least for me anyhow, I feel helpless. Sure my brothers and I were supporting them in every way possible, taking them to appointments, encouraging them to keep fighting when they were sick of being sick.

“Fundraising for this cause that affects so many has helped me get through some of the most difficult times in my life," Neller says, pointing out Princess Margaret’s is near and dear to her heart.

“I wanted to support the very same hospital that treated my Dad so well and supported every one of his kids along the way. He was initially given six months at best and lived an extra 13 years because of a clinical trial held by the PMCC. I will forever be grateful for that time. It’s all we had.”

Two years prior to her Dad’s passing, Neller lost her mother to ovarian cancer at the young age of 56.

“I try not to think too long about the things I cannot control and my volunteer work and fundraising has given me that much-needed distraction when holidays come around or there are birthdays or when my husband and I have something amazing to celebrate for our kids like Grade 8 graduation. There are important milestones along the way that they should be here for.”

And just recently, Neller lost her grandmother, who she describes as “the rock of our family” to cancer.

“I have had friends who have done the walk alongside me and become such an important part of the team Pretty in Pink that I will be forever grateful,” says the mother of three “beautiful” girls.

“We now have a strong, committed and dedicated group of friends who work hard all year long to make sure we raise enough to participate year after year. My husband calls it my healthy addiction.

“He is such an important part of all of this. I can do what I do because of his never-ending support and encouragement as well.”

And with one out of every two Canadians being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, Neller says it’s essential to raise funds that help researchers and doctors find a cure.

“We walk because we can’t walk away,” she explains. “I’m tired of watching loved ones get diagnosed with this horrible disease.

“It changes people, hurts so deep and leaves scars for life. We celebrate the strong warriors who have kicked cancer’s ass and remember the ones who couldn’t.”

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country’s most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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