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FEATURE: Glenn Anderson returns to his charity event as Honourary Chair

After starting the charity event 30 years ago, the Oilers Hall of Famer never knew how much it would impact his life

by Jessica Kent / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - The year was 1989 and, like his teammates, a 28-year-old Glenn Anderson went on to start a charity.

"Thirty years later who knew this wo­uld exist," Anderson exclaimed, talking about the Cross Cancer Institute Golf Classic. "The whole team had at least one charity and we supported each and every one. Our team and our dynasty were part of the community - we were part of Edmonton and Edmonton was part of the Oilers."

At that time Anderson didn't know how successful the event would go on to become, or how much the Cross Cancer Institute would eventually mean to him.

Pairing up with the facility could be looked at as fate. The first two charities Anderson reached out to turned him down. When he approached the Cross Cancer it was a momentous 'yes' and they hit the ground running; it was an easy partnership that turned into a life-long commitment for the Oilers right-winger.

"In some way shape or form we're all connected - it's six degrees of separation - we all know someone involved or who has this terrible disease, so it was a perfect fit," the Hall of Famer explained.

Though Anderson has since parted ways with the Golf Classic, he never stopped visiting patients at the Cross Cancer Institute.

"To this day I still try to go back there and visit and hand out autographs. I'm not being told to do it I just go because it means a lot to me and a lot to the community...Edmonton was a big part of my life."

The gravity of the disease recently hit home for Anderson when two of his life-long friends, who used the facility, passed away.

"It's an ongoing battle. More recently was the death of (long-time Oilers Hockey Operations staff member) Brian Ross and he was a big part of the Edmonton Oilers family, I was up there at the Cross visiting with him."

Nearly 10 months earlier, Anderson's teammate and friend, Dave Semenko, also spent his last days receiving care at the facility after a brief battle. Just weeks before he passed neither man thought the last time they saw each other would be the last time.

"When I was last hanging out with Dave there was nothing wrong, we were joking around and playing hockey, so that was more of a surprise, where Brian was more of a progressive cancer."

The Cross Cancer Institute Golf Classic was started to support people like Semenko and Ross.

The event is celebrating 30 years on August 16, 2018 with Anderson returning as the Honourary Chair.

"I'm looking forward to coming back and seeing the changes they've done and getting back involved."

To date, the event has raised more than $15-million for new equipment, programs and research.

"Specifically there's been a PET-CT Scanner, exercise therapy research, bone marrow transplant fellow and this year it's colorectal research," said Melanie Dekker with the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

"If it's gone on this long I think it's taken on a life of its own. They've grown it above and beyond my expectations and raising over $1-million per event in Alberta is unheard of," the Oilers Alumni said.

Maybe that's unheard of nowadays, but just 30 years ago it was unheard of to host a golf tournament as a fundraiser, let alone raise as much money as they did that first year.

"Acklands donated a thousand dollars for every goal I scored that year," he reminisced. "I got 64 goals in the regular season and in playoffs and along came a Brinks truck with $64-thousand in it and we donated it to the Cross Cancer.

"To this day I still remember the truck pulling up and then the whole team came over for the festivities."

The goal was $50-thousand but was surpassed thanks in large part to Edmonton businessman, Cal Nichols and Acklands President, Doug Cumming.

"They were connected and they made huge donations with their companies."

If anything has changed in those 30 years since the Cross Cancer Institute Golf Classic was started, it wouldn't be Anderson's "sub-par" golf game, but the number of success stories that continue to come out of the facility.

"Thirty years ago 70 per cent of people died when they were diagnosed with cancer now 70 per cent live… it's incredible," Dekker added. "Fifteen million dollars goes a long way in making a difference for the lives of people facing cancer in Alberta."

The Golf Classic is coming up on August 16th at the Derrick Golf and Country Club, and as it continues for another year, so does the support both Oil Country and the Oilers show for their community.

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