SAYWARD — It is fitting that six-year-old Daisy Irwin lives for the moment. Since being diagnosed with a rare form of infant leukemia at 10 weeks of age, every moment of her life has been special for her parents and older sister.
And Daisy became just as special to the residents of this small North Vancouver Island village, when she, her father Patrick and eight-year-old sister Molly traveled from their home in Sooke to take part in Sayward’s fundraising showcase for the 2011 Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
“Oh, she is so precious,” said Bryanne Stacey, president of the Tour de Rock Sayward Association. “Both the girls are beautiful kids.”
Daisy is a junior rider attached to RCMP Cpl. Manon Chouinard of Victoria, who was stationed in Sayward from 1999-2002. Chouinard was in New York to compete in the World Police and Fire Games and was unable to attend the Sayward fundraiser, which included a fishing derby Saturday and a best-ball golf tournament Sunday at Rainbow’s End Golf Course.
Daisy appeared in her stead, and quickly became the centre of attention. Sporting a head of blond curls topped by a pink cap with her namesake flower poking out from it, Daisy behaved like any healthy, happy six-year-old. Which she is now, having been in remission since undergoing three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant by the age of six months.
“She spent eight months in hospital,” said Patrick Irwin. “We lived in Ronald McDonald house during that time. Molly was two (years old), so she’s been involved the whole time.”
The entire family has been involved in the fight against cancer since. Patrick’s wife Emma, who remained at home with the couple’s newest addition, 10-month-old daughter Violet, runs an online support group for families dealing with the rare infant leukemia that struck Daisy.
Both Molly and Daisy have been junior riders in previous years, Daisy has attended Camp Homewood near Maple Ridge, and the family joined Daisy for a trip to Disney World in Florida three years ago through the Make a Wish Foundation.
Patrick said his daughter has been treated as a VIP at all these events, but he was still overwhelmed by the reception his family received on its first visit to Sayward.
“It’s so incredible, for such a small town, how many people get involved,” he said. “There’s so much outpouring from the community, and that’s really what this is about.”
Mayor John MacDonald and his wife Susan put up the Irwins in an RV for the weekend, and Norm and Gail Kirschener took them out on a fishing trip during Saturday’s derby, where Daisy helped net a salmon and the group caught several cod.
“The cods were pretty tough,” said Molly, who plans to shave her dark, shoulder-length hair during a send-off party for the riders in Victoria later this month and who has raised more than $150 for her locks.
Organizers said Saturday’s events, which included a beer garden, barbecue, and raffle and 50/50 draws, brought in approximately $1,000 for Cops for Cancer. Another $1,000+ was expected from Sunday’s golfing and raffle.
The fishing derby was the brainchild of current Sayward RCMP officer Rod Pick, who took part in Sunday’s golf tourney.
“I just got the ball rolling, and the volunteers have been incredible,” said Pick. “We’re hoping to keep it going from here forward.”
Sayward, which also forwarded $1,000 from events held in support of the Tour on Canada Day, will have one last chance to display its generosity when riders roll into the village on Sept. 26.
During Sunday’s golf tournament, Daisy and Molly parked in lawn chairs alongside the ninth green, playing handheld video games while waiting for foursomes to approach the green. After each group putted, the players were offered a chance to putt against the girls for a $5 Tour donation. Nobody turned down the offer.
So what was Daisy’s most enjoyable part of the weekend?
“For now, my favourite part is golf,” she said.
After all, she was living for the moment.