Christine McCourt

Top 40 Under 40 2012

Photography Pedersen

Age: 37

Job Title: Communications Coordinator, Edmonton’s Kids Up Front Foundation and volunteer fundraiser

Why She’s Top 40: For channeling her grief into impassioned cancer-research fundraising.

Key To Success: “Being surrounded by supportive, inspirational people in all areas of my life is incredibly motivating and reminds me that there is so much more that I have yet to learn.”

Seven years ago, Christine McCourt lost her husband, Jon, to esophageal cancer. The devastation was worsened by the fact that she’d just given birth to her second child. “I just remember a lot of sitting on the couch crying, that first year,” she says. “Everything else is a blur.”

When the emotional fog had barely lifted, McCourt wanted to honour her husband’s memory. Recalling a Canadian Cancer Society ad calling for participants for Relay for Life, an overnight fundraiser held in 5,000 communities worldwide, she got involved. At first, she volunteered to be a team captain and, over the next five years, worked with her teammates to raise $262,000 for cancer research, advocacy and support services. But, over time, McCourt has deepened her involvement. For three years, she served as the chair of the relay’s local chapter, helping to organize the event and cumulatively raise more than $1 million. Now, she volunteers as an advisor to Relay for Life events across Canada and represents Canada to the international organization. “I’m not a researcher. I’m not the person who will find a cure for cancer. But, I’m working as best as I know how to do to help fight this disease.”

McCourt attributes her altruism to her upbringing. Raised on a cattle and grain farm near Vegreville, Alta., hard work and community contribution was just a fact of life. Among other things, her father advocated for soil conservation and her mom was involved with her work union and the local school, and neither thought it was anything special. “You do what you can, not because you have to, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Since 2007, she has volunteered 500 hours annually to Relay for Life. It was a tricky balance with two young children, she says, but it helped her grieve for her husband, while setting a good example for her daughters.

“You do have a responsibility to your community, as a whole, to do everything you can,” she says. ” I know the statistics. I know someone I love dearly will in my lifetime again be diagnosed with cancer and I know I’ll be able to look them in the eye and say, ‘I’ve done everything I can.'”

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