For Graeme MacRury, Saturday’s Rugby Sevens at BC Place was more than just a chance to watch some of the best players in the world.
The Abbotsford dad is a rugby player himself, but taking a break from the Abbotsford RFC while his four-and-a-half-year-old daughter Paisley battles leukemia, who was diagnosed in December.
But in the stands and on the pitch there was something else going on Saturday: people wore orange shirts and orange shoe laces to show support for Paisley and her battle.
“Unless you’re a parent who has gone through it you have no idea how lonely and isolated you feel,” MacRury said.
“To know there is someone reaching out to try and help you and support you and let you know they are there for you, thank you.”
The initiative took off when a former rugby teammate of MacRury’s in Abbotsford heard about Paisley’s illness and wanted to do something to help.
Jake Thiel, who now plays for Team Canada, started wearing orange laces at the South American Rugby Sevens. Things escalated from there.
“Now we’ve got people wearing orange laces in England and people wearing them all over the country,” he said.
“It’s incredible to see that there’s that much support in the rugby community for a little girl.”
Paisley is still going through treatment, and while her dad said she hasn’t grasped how big the support team is, she still loves what is happening.
“She will take the time to make sure she counts orange laces and she will say, ‘He’s wearing orange laces for me,'” MacRury said.
“It’s very humbling to know that there are so many people out there who are trying to support me and wish the best for her.”
According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada there are 22,510 Canadians living with or in remission from Leukemia. In 2016, 5900 were diagnosed with the form of blood cancer.
For Thiel, the experience has shown him that no amount of support for the community or this family is too small.
“Them seeing it, helping them maybe pick up their mood a little bit is enough for me,” he said. “If wearing the laces one time does that, I don’t see why I wouldn’t do it again.”