Canadian Underwriter

Jim Abernethy Challenge: Can P&C industry top $500K for blood cancer research?

September 2, 2022   by David Gambrill

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In this year’s second annual Jim Abernethy Challenge, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada hopes Canadian P&C insurance professionals can help top last year’s $500,000 contribution to blood cancer research and community support.

The Jim Abernethy Challenge is part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada’s ‘Light the Night’ campaign, which has a goal this year to raise more than $6 million for leukemia and lymphoma research and support for those with up to 137 different types of blood cancers.

The challenge honours the memory of Abernethy, who retired as chief financial officer of Marsh Canada in February 2019 after 32 years at the brokerage. He passed away in December 2019 after having been diagnosed with leukemia just three months before.

The second annual Jim Abernethy Challenge will begin on Sept. 7, 2022, when teams of up to 15 people start to participate in events such as cycling, running, walking, and other physical activities of interest (activities in the ‘movement’ category, for example, might include dog-walking, yoga, and canoeing).

Teams register for the event and set fundraising goals to support the cause. An awards ceremony on Oct. 13 will honour outstanding efforts in fundraising and physical activities during the month-long challenge.

Activities will be monitored by way of a free app, Strava, that people can download onto their phones.

“A lot of us wear fitness watches these days, and the app will sync with a lot of fitness watches as well,” Wybenga notes. “There are a lot of options to track activity through the Strava app, but that’s the easiest way to do it.”

This year, the Jim Abernethy Challenge already has 77 teams registered and more than $251,000 raised.

Last year, participants logged more than 40,000 kilometres of activity and did some kind of physical movement for more than 13,000 hours.

The $500,000 raised during the inaugural event last year more than doubled the initial expectations of the organizers, who tapped into the generous — and competitive — spirit of Canadian P&C insurance professionals.

“We had no idea the insurance sector would step up in the way that they did,” Tania Wybenga, regional director of Ontario for the Leukenia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, said in an interview. “We just saw people get more and more involved with the challenge as it progressed over the four weeks.

“It’s a competitive sector, and we certainly saw the friendly competition come to the surface. We were blown away and certainly so grateful for the support and impact that the challenge has had for us as an organization.”

Thanks in part to proceeds raised in the inaugural version of the Jim Abernethy Challenge, Wybenga said the society made a $4-million investment into research and support programs within Canada last year.

“That was the largest investment in our history,” she said. “We were able to provide funding for 45 research projects across the country. One great example of a new support program we were able to introduce this past year was our One-Kilometer-at-a-Time transportation subsidy program.

“That’s a one-time $300 subsidy we provide to those who are in treatment for blood cancers. Because we know the costs associated with getting to the hospital, parking at the hospital, and meals while you’re at the hospital can be challenging. We want to do our small part to support [people diagnosed with blood cancers and their families].”

Abernethy himself was an outdoor enthusiast who loved physical activity, as noted in an obituary published by the Toronto Star. He was an avid hockey player and cyclist, played squash, participated in 10K runs, and competed in dragon-boat races.

“[Jim] loved physical activity, and had a competitive spirit, so we have designed this challenge to get all of us moving and competing,” a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada website dedicated to the challenge states.

Abernethy had a wide following in the industry, as evidenced by the list of 26 P&C insurance industry sponsors signed up for the 2022 challenge — including AIG, Aviva Canada, First Insurance, Intact, Zurich, Allianz, Allied World, Arch, Axis, Berkley, Chubb, CNA, Crawford, Desjardins, Ecclesiastical, Economical, Everest, HSB, ICPEI, Liberty Mutual, Northbridge, RBC Insurance, Sedgewick, Travelers, Trisura and Victor.


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