Skip to content

Arkell family's light display helps raise money for friend's memorial fund (5 photos)

'It means something to me if another family doesn’t have to go through the same thing they’re going through'

ARKELL – A Christmas light display in Guelph is putting a spotlight on a memorial fund looking to find a cure for glioblastoma.

For the past five years, Amy Hunt-Brito and her family have set up a lavish light display at their home on 33 Carter Rd. 

This year for their display, the family has decided to accept donations for the Cindy Lee Graham Memorial Endowment Fund for Brain & CNS Cancer Research, a memorial fund created following the passing of Guelph resident, Cindy Graham, from a rare form of brain cancer. 

“We started doing it because we enjoyed looking at the lights,” said Hunt-Brito.“We have neighbours come by and say that they love seeing it and we have friends say they look forward to it every year, and doing that is the reason why we’ve always done it."

“We heard from a few people, they've asked us why we don’t do one, and my husband and I have been talking back and forth about doing one, and then we just never have," she said, "and then with Cindy's passing, it just seemed like the perfect way to start."

Prior to her passing, Cindy made the decision to donate her brain to researchers at McMaster to help develop a cure for this aggressive type of brain cancer.

Being friends with Cindy, Hunt-Brito said the memorial fund seemed like a 'perfect fit' as a charity their family could donate funds from their light display too.

“She was just so fun and kind and nice,” said Hunt-Brito. “Now, I’ve kind of been there to support Tom and the boys a bit during this difficult part.”

To help collect donations, the Hunt-Brito family has set up a donation box and a QR code at the display. Donations will be accepted everyday, including on the last day of the display, which is Jan. 2.

With this being their first year in raising money, Hunt-Brito said she is hoping they can do 'fairly good' for the memorial fund.

“I feel like Cindy did her part by donating all that, and I feel like it means something to me if another family doesn’t have to go through the same thing they’re going through."

When Hunt-Brito approached Thomas Graham, Cindy’s husband, about her interest in collecting donations for the memorial fund, Graham said he was ‘blown away.’

“She was a friend of Cindy’s and I guess this cause was enough to spark something,” he said,“It was very nice of her.”

Setting up the fund this summer to help support researchers who are looking into treating glioblastoma, Graham said it’s been a slow burn in terms of fundraising.

“The fund itself has raised a fair amount, but we have a long way to go," said Graham, "Sheila, the researcher and neurosurgeon that’s working on this, has pulled together a huge team of the world’s best, literally, to fully characterize the donation Cindy has made, and get that out to the world, because cures come from understanding.”

For Graham, every dollar counts, as he mentions medical professionals still don’t understand the disease and it will take a lot of money to help pay researchers to run the equipment and put the work in.

"We've got to keep these researchers going and keep their lights on," said Graham.

After making the decision to donate her brain to be studied by researchers, Graham said Cindy has inspired other patients with glioblastoma to donate their brains as well.

"There's already been three others that have made the same, selfless donation and the more, the better, and the more data we can get, the better the understanding." said Graham. "It can be different in each person, so the more we have, the better ... and all these people have cited Cindy as having inspired them to do this, so it's very moving."

"I'm quite confident that this will lead to, if not a cure, certainly much better treatment."

Having a grandfather who passed away from the same disease in 2000, Hunt-Brito mentions she also learned of a neighbour who has a family member also battling the disease, since deciding to dedicate her display to Cindy.

“They said that it's a great thing, a great cause,” she said.

Those who would like to make a donation to the Cindy Lee Graham Memorial Endowment Fund for Brain & CNS Cancer Research can do so here.