Brooke Ramsay

Top Relay team names research grant

When a family turns something very negative into a positive to help other people, that’s extremely inspiring and it drives us.

When Brooke Ramsay was diagnosed with brain cancer in April 2010 at the age of 21, she immediately started thinking of ways to raise money for brain cancer research. Then an event planning student at George Brown College, she thought she could use her expertise and love of a good party to raise funds. After 3 brain surgeries and months of radiation treatment, Brooke put together the first Brooke’s Donkeys Relay For Life team.

The team’s curious name comes from the time following Brooke’s 2nd brain surgery when she was having trouble expressing her thoughts through words. Brooke worked daily to regain her lost language by trying to match images and words. One day while Brooke was watching a documentary on donkeys, it clicked, and she came running downstairs screaming, “donkey, donkey, it’s a donkey!” 

In August 2011, a few months after her first Relay, Brooke died, surrounded by her loving family and friends. Since then, her devoted Donkeys have kept up the effort, participating in Relay annually and raising more than $250,000 in the past 4 years.

“If we ask our friends, our neighbourhood merchants or anybody to support us, and we tell them our story, people make donations,” says Brooke’s mother, Rhonda Ramsay. “They know that we do it because we love Brooke, but they also know that we do it because it’s a good thing to do.”

In recognition of their outstanding fundraising, an Innovation Grant held by Dr Kevin Petrecca was named the Brooke’s Donkeys Innovation Grant of the Canadian Cancer Society. Dr Petrecca and his team at McGill University are studying the genetics involved in the spread of the most common adult brain cancer, glioblastoma.

This year, the week after their Relay event, Brooke’s Donkeys met with Dr Petrecca and learned more about his work.

“I always love to meet donors,” says Dr Petrecca. “I like to know why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s always inspiring to me because illness, especially in a young person, can be handled in many different ways, but when a family or a group turns something very negative into a positive to help other people, that’s extremely inspiring and it drives us.”

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