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Rob and Amanda Chalmers near their home in Toronto's entertainment district in March, 2021.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Rob Chalmers

The pitch: Founding Mélanie’s Way

The reason: To fund wishes for young women with terminal cancer

When Mélanie Chalmers died from breast cancer at the age of 39, her husband Rob was taken aback by how many people were affected by her love of life.

“We saw this wave of support come in,” Mr. Chalmers, 46, said from his home in Toronto. Dozens of people Mr. Chalmers barely knew talked about how they had been inspired by Ms. Chalmers and her refusal to be defined by cancer. “It kind of gave us this realization that there was something here that people connected with and there were other people who wanted to achieve the same type of things that Mel did.”

That led to the creation of Mélanie’s Way, a charity that grants “wishes” to women under the age of 45 who have terminal cancer. Since its founding in 2016, the charity has helped roughly two dozen women and their families go on a dream vacation, visit relatives, rent a cottage or just attend a baseball game. “We actually don’t give people more time but we give them an opportunity to have a shared experience,” Mr. Chalmers said. “You’re going through the worst possible thing you can go through but you get a moment of joy.”

Mr. Chalmers, his wife Amanda and a team of volunteers organize roughly 10 wishes annually, which each cost between $10,000 and $12,000. They had big plans in 2020 to raise $250,000 and fund 20 trips but COVID-19 put everything on hold. The pandemic “has been brutal,” Mr. Chalmers said. He’s hoping that once restrictions are removed the charity will be able to fulfil even more wishes. Ultimately, if more money is raised he’d like to see Mélanie’s Way expand and include older women as well as men.

While he’s been grateful for the success of Mélanie’s Way, nothing can ease the pain of her loss. “It will always be unfair that she was sick so young and that she had so much taken from her,” he said. “And all the women who we help are in that same position that Mel was in.”