Coda holds gala fundraiser
for World Cancer Day

Alex Siou explains Coda’s history and ongoing work in Q&A

By Irwin Rapoport

January 17, 2024

That terrifying word – cancer – strikes dread in those who fear they have it and those who have been diagnosed with this horrible disease. We all know someone who has personally dealt with cancer, with some surviving and others succumbing to it. My late cousin, Irwin Freedman, was diagnosed with an aggressive stomach cancer and left us three months later. Over the years, we have made great advances in the detection and treatment of multiple cancers, and research continues to hone existing treatments and develop more effective new ones.

Montrealers can help to tackle cancer through Coda, a non-profit organization led by McGill Medicine students in collaboration with the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and Fondation québécoise du cancer (FQC). Coda is holding a gala fundraiser on Saturday, February 3, to raise funds in support of World Cancer Day.

“This exclusive evening of elegance and compassion is set to take place on February 3 at the prestigious Prima Luna reception hall in RDP-Pointe-Aux-Trembles,” states CODA’s press release. “The Coda World Cancer Day Gala is not only a celebration of life but also a significant initiative to raise funds for a noble cause. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Fondation québécoise du cancer (FQC), an organization dedicated to supporting cancer patients in Quebec.”

Coda fundraising

Coda fundraising result

Alex Siou, Coda’s Communications Director and a first-year McGill Medicine student, cites Coda’s raison d’être: “To raise funds, raise awareness, and inspire tomorrow’s leaders to take action in the fight against cancer. Through fundraiser events and public awareness campaigns in the Canadian population, Team Coda provides cancer patients with the help they need and recognizes them for their ongoing bravery.”

The gala, says Siou, “promises to be a night filled with entertainment, awareness, and the spirit of giving.”

The event consists of:
– A five-course gourmet dinner.
– Raffles for exclusive items and experiences.
– Guest speaker Dr. Danyèle Lacombe, Vice-Dean and Director of Campus Outaouais, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
– Opportunities for guests to make direct contributions to the FQC.

“On World Cancer Day, we come together to honour cancer survivors, stand by patients on their road to recovery, and remember those we’ve lost,” said Omar Toubar, CEO of Coda. “We are thrilled to host this gala in honour of the special occasion and contribute to the exceptional work of the Fondation québecoise du cancer.”

World Cancer Day, February 4, is described as “a day to come together to honour and remember everyone affected by cancer and take action to change the future of cancer forever.”

The Fondation québécoise du cancer (FQC) has been providing support for cancer patients and their families for more than 40 years. It offers therapies ranging from physical and psychological wellness support to financial and legal assistance. “A second family, a light at the end of the tunnel, a lifeline, a team of good-hearted people: that’s what the FQC means for the thousands of men and women whom they support each year.”

The February 3 gala, for which Black Tie is optional, starts at 6 pm at the Prima Luna Reception Hall at 7301 Boul. Henri Bourassa E.

Coda medical student participants

Coda medical student participants

Alex Siou spoke about the gala fundraiser and the work of the organization that is helping patients and families going through rough times.

WM: What goes into planning the gala, and how can people help sell tickets or help with the preparation?

Siou: The World Cancer Day Gala is a monumental collaborative effort that brings together every Coda seed across various Canadian academic institutions (both CEGEPs and universities). Each seed is involved in one of the following teams: Social Media, Media, Logistics, Finances, Sponsorships and Invitations. These teams are spearheaded by our board of governors who have been working on this project for months now. It’s a complex operation with many moving parts but the key to its success lies in the unwavering dedication of every member towards this exceptional cause.

WM: How long has Coda been operating as an organization, and could you highlight some of its activities?

Siou: Coda started as a student association at Marianopolis College in 2019, in honour of a founding member’s loved one who lost their battle with cancer. In late 2021, Coda was relaunched by a group of McGill medical students as a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for cancer patients throughout Canada. Since the relaunch, Coda has raised upwards of $60,000 through a wide variety of events held across its 12 affiliated academic institutions. Coda is composed of a dedicated team of over 100 future health professionals in Eastern Canada who work very hard to ensure that our donors’ well-trusted money benefits the lives of cancer patients and their families.

Last year’s World Cancer Day took on a Carnival theme, where various booths emphasized the importance of primary and secondary cancer prevention by presenting actionable steps to reduce cancer risk and improve early detection. We also invited guest speakers to share their experiences and provide invaluable insights on how to support close friends or family members suffering from cancer.

Teddy Bear Clinic

Teddy Bear Clinic

Additionally, we organize an annual Teddy Bear Clinic in collaboration with the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) to assemble gift bags for all the hospitalized children at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. This event is all about making the medical world less daunting for kids. It’s a hands-on experience that introduces them to the ins and outs of medical settings, procedures, and tests, ultimately easing their stress and anxiety.

On top of all these events, we are proud to provide services directly to cancer patients. Our Chit Chat program, for instance, consists of trained volunteers who meet with cancer patients to provide direct psychosocial support.

WM: As noted, cancer has impacted far too many people in Montreal. Could students who do not study medicine as well as members of the public, volunteer to work with Coda?

Siou: Although many of our members are medical students, Coda warmly welcomes all students from various programs across our academic institutions. In the future, we are looking to have volunteer programs, both online and in-person, in collaboration with the FQC and Jewish General Hospital. Volunteers will either be able to participate through our Chit Chat program providing psychosocial support, or our new in-person volunteering opportunity, leaving a direct impact on the lives of cancer patients.

WM: Medical students, as well as doctors and interns, will be dealing with patients diagnosed with cancer, along with their families. To what extent does volunteering for Coda help them as future doctors?

Siou: Volunteering for Coda helps shape medical students into more empathetic and well-rounded future doctors. By engaging with individuals diagnosed with cancer and their families, volunteers gain a profound understanding of the challenges extending beyond the medical realm, such as financial struggles and social issues. This heightened awareness translates into increased empathy, a crucial attribute for effective healthcare providers. Getting exposure to the holistic impact of illnesses enables us to make more informed and compassionate medical decisions.

Coda event Dawson College

Coda event at Dawson College

WM: Since Coda was founded, how many students have worked with the organization, and how has this changed them?

Siou: Since its founding, Coda has had the privilege of working with over 100 students, cultivating a community where members not only learn professional skills but also form lasting connections akin to a family. The unique environment at Coda fosters a sense of deep professionalism and commitment to the cause, with many students choosing to stay on and contribute to the organization’s mission as they transition from CEGEP to university.

WM: For those unable to attend the gala but want to donate, what should they do?

Siou: We invite you to donate on our website  Rest assured, all donations received are entirely non-profit, directly funding our upcoming initiatives. The proceeds from these endeavours will be channelled to supporting charitable causes like the FQC and the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), amplifying our impact on the community.

To learn more about the event and to purchase tickets, visit

Images: courtesy of CodaBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

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Irwin RapoportIrwin Rapoport is a freelance journalist with Bachelor’s degrees in History and Political Science from Concordia University.

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