Over the past twenty years, cancer survivor Bernice Arsenault has made an incredible contribution to the Canadian Cancer Society through her fundraising efforts.
Arsenault found out through early detection that she had cancer 20 years ago.
“I was once devastated when I found out I had breast cancer and then I thought, well you know what … it’s not going to take me, I’m going to take it. So I picked up a gauntlet and I’m going to help raise money for breast cancer,” she said.
Arsenault has walked annually in the CIBC Run for the Cure since being diagnosed. On Sunday morning, joined by many lifelong friends and family members in the historic Africville Park in Halifax, Arsenault set out to complete another five-km walk.
With palpable enthusiasm and energy, Arsenault led her supporters around the trails in the park, opting for a smaller run this year so those participating could properly socially distance.
Choosing this walking ground was nostalgic for Arsenault, who also grew up in Africville, a small seaside village that was predominantly Black Canadians. In the 1970s, due to urban development, residents were forced to leave their homes.
“Growing up in Africville, it was like freedom 55. I say that because everything was here. You had family and friends. You could go skating and fishing and everyone was a family.” she said.
Anna Thomas works for the Canadian Cancer Society and says she is inspired by the work that Arsenault puts forth over the years.
“I have worked with Bernice over the past four or five years and she is so amazing, she never stops, she will talk to anyone and ask for a donation because she really believes in the work that we do at the Canadian Cancer Society in support of breast cancer,” said Thomas.
Over the past 19 years, Arsenault has raised $267,000. She said this year, she didn’t start fundraising until September because of the pandemic. However, this year she has raised $12,000 to date.
It doesn’t stop with the walk, though. Arsenault is always looking for innovative ways to raise funds. She hosts an annual merchandise bingo night and raffles off tickets on gift baskets. She says people living in her community of Cole Harbour look forward to seeing her every year when she comes by to ask for donations.
A childhood friend, Beatrice Walkins says Arsenault is an energetic person who is full of life.
“I feel like because of Bernice’s efforts for the Cancer Society, it shows that regardless of your age, you can go out there and do something,” she said.
“Anything that Bernice gets involved with, she puts her all in and she finished one fundraiser one year and she’s back thinking what can I do to make it better,” said Bette Skinner, another friend of Arsenault who has walked in the Run For The Cure with Arsenault since the beginning.
Arsenault credits early detection for the reason she is still living today.
“Early detection saves your life. You know, it gives you a chance — once they tell you that you have cancer, it’s like the death word, and it shouldn’t be.”