Shining through the meaning behind Shinerama

Photo courtesy of Douglas Summerhayes
Photo courtesy of Douglas Summerhayes

At the start of every school year Laurier Brantford’s students’ union alongside the university goes above and beyond to welcome the upcoming first years. O-week is supposed to be the most memorable week of their lives. It’s a week of events and activities that initiate life-long friendships and set school spirit. There are many memories that each student will take away as their favourite, but in my humble opinion I think the most significant event is Shinerama — Shinerama is the leading post-secondary fundraiser in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada – it’s where each and every student has that “this is my first act as a Golden Hawk contributing to something bigger than myself” moment. I knew Shinerama achieved that moment for me when a young women approached our group and said “I’m living with CF and I’m fortunate enough to say living because of the work people like you have done, so thank you.” That was ground-breaking for me and I guess since it’s nearly the start of another school year all of that had me thinking; so who started Shinerama? And why? And why Cystic Fibrosis of all causes?

These series of questions led me to Douglas Summerhayes. Summerhayes along with his wife Donna are attributed with being among the founding members of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Upon meeting Summerhayes, I could already tell it was going to be a very passionate interview. He came dressed in his Cystic Fibrosis Canada t-shirt and accompanying him was a board of information about CF and its genesis here in Laurier Brantford.

Shinerama’s initial chapter started in Kitchener-Waterloo at the Waterloo Lutheran University at the time. Shinerama was created out of the need to stop the hazing that was being inflicted upon the freshman. “There was a lot of animosity towards the students for their hazing rituals” said Summerhayes. As a way to combat that bad reputation they had gained, the students ‘union turned their hazing into a social cause to give back to the community.

Shinerama started out as a shoe shining project before it moved on to car washing. The chapter decided that that strategy was failing because it didn’t succeed in bringing people together the way it should.

When I asked why CF, out all the causes to pick from, why that one? Summerhayes mentioned he had a daughter, Pamela, who was diagnosed with CF. “When we had taken her to the doctor they mentioned that she had lived longer than they expected her to. They said to take her home and keep her comfortable. The doctor didn’t outright say that she was going to die but it was implied.”

That was a significant moment that went on to inspire Summerhayes and his wife to work tirelessly to start Shinerama chapters all over Canada educating parents and even some doctors on CF.

It clicked now, why he was so passionate he had a daughter – and later would go on to have a son –who had been diagnosed with CF.

Summerhayes’ and his wife’s efforts dedication to bringing awareness to CF would go on to change the very nature on how CF is viewed and treated here in Canada. With their efforts Canada has one of the longest life expectancy among any other country in the world. And the combined efforts over all the chapters in Canada have raised over 25 million dollars. “We’ve achieved far beyond our wildest dreams” Summerhayes said.

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