Madena Reimer has survived two bouts with cancer and just recently lost her best friend and mother to the disease, so when her name was drawn from the hat as Alberta’s Most Loving Person, she was reduced to tears.
“After a year of bad things, this light is needed,” she said. And it has been a very tough 2014 for Reimer, who has been long undergoing the ordeal of breast cancer.
Reimer explained that she was diagnosed not once but twice with the disease, and has had several lumpectomies and a double masectomy. Then, last January, a friend of her daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer. During the last two months of that girl’s life, Reimer was by her side.
“I was there when she drew her last breath,” Reimer said of the 19-year-old cancer victim. Then, just four months later, Reimer’s mother was also diagnosed with cancer.
“I flew right back to Newfoundland right away,” Reimer said, and over the next few months watched her mother lose her battle.
“It’s really tough,” Reimer recalled. “It’s still tough. Seeing her suffer and knowing you could do nothing? It was devastating.”
Returning home, Reimer then lost a friend from the Athabasca Breast Cancer Support group at the end of the year. Without the efforts of her children, there would have been little joy over Christmas, she said.
Then she found out she’d been nominated as Most Loving Person in Alberta by friends.
The contest was dreamed up by Cody and Eva Borek who, after purchasing a vehicle from Aspen Ford in Stettler, were given a free trip to Hawaii in March. Deciding they’d rather give it to someone else to brighten their day, the Boreks got Aspen Ford on board (since the tickets were officially non-transferable), and then launched the contest on Dec. 25, 2014.
The Boreks received more than 20,000 nominations on the Facebook page set up for the competition and, as it drew both national and international attention, they received nominations from around the world.
And Reimer was one of those that came to the forefront pretty quickly.
“People say I’m all heart,” Reimer said with a laugh. “But I just do what’s right.”
Reimer started the Athabasca Breast Cancer Support Group when she was diagnosed with the disease, but she’s also raised $50,000 through her Reimer Warriors Run for the Cure team, has spoken at multiple events regarding breast cancer, and even spoke as the motivational speaker at her daughter’s graduation – the best thing ever, she said.
Today, she’s co-ordinator for Road to Hope, an organization that works with cancer patients in the area, ensuring they’ve transportation to and from Edmonton for treatment. She served as president for three years before stepping down to become co-ordinator because she wanted a more direct interface with the people the program helps.
Athabasca County recognized Reimer as its volunteer of the year last year as well.
Reimer was one of 10 finalists in the contest, with the winner being chosen from a hat. She was standing directly behind Cody Borek and his little brother, who drew the name, as it was unfolded. Even before it was read, Reimer had seen the winner.
“MADENA” in big, bold letters.
Her gasp of overwhelming joy was quickly joined by tears, and her name was officially read out loud to applause not just from the crowd, but the other nine loving people also shortlisted.
The Boreks had done a bit of extra leg work throughout the contest to ensure there were packages available for the other nine, including excursions with Alberta Prairie Railway and a trip to Jasper for two.
The biggest surprise, however, came from Aspen Ford. As the room quieted down, Tim Berry stepped forward to announce that there were more trips to be given away.
RCMP Const. Robert Hynes, who works in Barrhead, was also given a trip to Hawaii, in recognition of his service in a profession that not only protects, but places its members at risk.
Hynes, who is the DARE officer in his community, said he was at Depot (RCMP training) with St. Albert Const. David Wynn, who was gunned down outside a casino earlier this month.
To help the Wynn family, Berry also announced the dealership was giving a trip to be auctioned off to raise money for a fund.
Finally, Berry surprised Eva and Cody Borek with a second trip.
“They can’t give this one away,” he said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.