By Zack Noureddine
Police foundations coordinator Peter Thompson has been awarded the National Medal of Courage for voluntary service to the Canadian Cancer Society and Relay For Life.
Although he is grateful for the honor, Thompson, 57, says that the emotional drive behind his work is something “no medal or award can ever define.
“I do what I do so that in a small way I can contribute to enhance the lives of many who battle with cancer,” he said. “It’s so many like me will never have to worry about the disease.”
Thompson was diagnosed with colon cancer for the first time on Dec. 19, 2002 and again in 2003. Due to his immediate need for medical attention, he resigned from his position as a senior executive officer with RCMP in 2003.
“I remember it all very well,” he said. “I thought at that time that my life, family and whole purpose had ended.”
Under the care of professionals at the Ottawa Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital and Princess Cancer Center in Toronto, Thompson found hope.
But it was the emotional side of the battle that challenged him throughout his two year journey.
“What I wasn’t prepared for was the mental aspect of the disease,” said Thompson. “The Canadian Cancer Society and their peer support programs really opened up my eyes to an organization that not only cared, but also had the best interest in their patients as the priority.”
Thompson soon realized disease was treatable compared to the many other he had met which had “very difficult struggles.”
Through the CCS Clinic and Lodge volunteers at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Center, he learned of the organization’s support programs and chose to volunteer.
He saw flaws in the ORCC’s volunteer delivery and became a volunteer organizer for 18 months. In 2003, he was asked to participate in the ‘survivor lap’ of the first Relay For Life event as the community services chair for Ottawa’s advisory team – a position he holds today for the Ontario division.
“(Thompson) seizes every opportunity to be involved with the Society,” said Maria Redpath, a community engagement supervisor for the CSS in Ottawa who has volunteered alongside Thompson over the years.
“His bravery in the fight against cancer and determination despite his treatment demonstrates his commitment to the cause,” she continued.
Thompson’s cancer would return in 2006, but his voluntary efforts for the Relay For Life were consistent; he helped curate one of the province’s largest relay events in the Nepean area.
The CCS had depended on him to “breathe life back into the entire event.”
Thompson’s “unconditional” service contributed to the CCS’s $110,000 increase over the previous year’s relay. It landed him a revenue development award for the Nepean area.
His extensive contribution to the Canadian Cancer Society was first acknowledged in 2009 by the Celebrating Dedication Award, and again in 2010 by the Award of Courage. The American Cancer Society awarded him the International Heroes of Hope award for his international service in the same year.
In April 2012, Thompson was accorded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. It is a prestige that Thompson describes as one of the “most honorable one could be entitled to.”
His two most recent awards – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Canadian Cancer Society’s Medal of Courage – came in 2013. He received the CSS’s medal in Toronto on Nov. 7.
“I am honored to have received every title of course,” he said. “But the true reward in what I do is in the pleasure of working with the great men and women who commit their everyday lives to make this world an easier one for those affected by cancer.”
Although his 30 years of RCMP service is behind him, his teaching at Algonquin allows him to exemplify the importance of “selfless work for the greater good of society.”
“If they really want that badge, they need to ask themselves what are they doing now during college that can demonstrate why they should be promoted to earn it. Or more importantly, why they deserve it,” he said.
“Because the true secret of life is giving, not getting.”