American Idol-style fundraiser will raise money for cancer

Myles Erick

Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), a non-profit organization that seeks to support costly cancer research in Israel, will be hosting its annual fundraising event at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Dec. 7.

The event, called ICRF Presents: Duets, piggybacks on the success of singing competition television shows, such as American Idol and The Voice. It will feature amateur singers who are mentored by industry veterans. Singers Jillea, Rylan James, Kayla Diamond, Sean Jones and Myles Erlick will perform with aspiring singers Ethan Young, Jakob Ain, Sage Siegel, Bernice Chan, Vivian Hicks, Yvee Kuhl, Avery Florence Seligman and Jake Donaldson. The event will feature soloist Laura Bretan and Lily Librach.

More than 500 guests are expected to attend.

Event co-chair Jeffrey Bly says he’s been involved with the “wonderful organization” for many years.

“This event is an evening filled with great entertainment for a great cause. We continue to provide money to amazing scientists that commit their all to the fight against cancer,” Bly says.


Gillian Tessis, another co-chair, says ICRF’s cause is one that is close to her heart.

“I became involved in ICRF as a way of honouring my father after he passed away from an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Co-chairing this event is very meaningful to me, as it’s an event that not only raises funds for our Israeli cancer researchers, but also raises awareness across multiple generations about the importance of this research in advancing the development of new cancer treatments,” says Tessis.

Co-chair Richard Flomen has two sisters that are battling cancer. One sister, Joy Tullock, who has multiple myeloma, is taking a drug called Velcade, which has been dubbed a “miracle drug” and was discovered by an ICRF-funded scientist. His other sister, Mona Sherkin, has ovarian cancer and is currently taking medication to keep the disease at bay.

Sherkin says ovarian cancer isn’t a women’s issue, but a Canadian issue, adding that from her perspective, the future looks bright.

“Ovarian cancer is a part of my life and will be for the rest of my life, but it will not dictate how I live my life. It really isn’t a death sentence anymore. I know that if this treatment doesn’t work, though I’m hopeful it will, there is something new coming down the pipe,” says Sherkin.

Ethan Young

Committee member Bonnie Fish says she wanted to get involved with ICRF because of her personal connection to cancer.

“I lost a close friend to cancer almost two years ago,” she says. “I thought, ‘What can I do? There must be some way to give back.’ I read about ICRF and was impressed with how their events … not only highlight talent from the research community in Israel, but pair it with talent from the Canadian landscape. As a Zionist, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be incredible if an amazing breakthrough came through Israel?’ For me, ICRF represents the perfect combination.”

The show’s musical director, Lorraine Lawson, says that what she finds especially exciting this year is that all the participants are very young. She likens the budding talent on stage with the budding research at ICRF.

Lawson lost both of her parents to pancreatic cancer. What drew her to the ICRF was the organization’s focus on research and development, and on finding new and exciting ways to combat the disease. She emphasizes the positive possibility around not just fighting cancer, but learning to live with cancer. Lawson calls this approach to cancer “enlightening and inspirational,” much as the show itself promises to be.