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The late Robert van Kessel, right, played host to thousands at his Rib ‘n’ Roll fundraisers, including former NHL player Andy Bathgate.

The Donor: Robert van Kessel

The Gift: Raising $350,000 and climbing

The Cause: Tour for Kids and Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation

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The Reason: To help children with cancer

Rob van Kessel enjoyed an extraordinary career as a lawyer in Brampton, Ont., writing five textbooks that are frequently cited by judges in their rulings. But his real passion was raising money for charities that help children with cancer.

Mr. van Kessel started with a fundraising event in Brampton in 1999, through his Rotary Club. By 2004, it had turned into a three-day extravaganza called Rib 'n' Roll, with bands, food – notably ribs – and in-line skating.

The annual festival attracts about 20,000 participants each May and marks the unofficial beginning of summer in the city. It has raised about $350,000 so far and the money goes to two charities: Tour for Kids and Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation, which help children living with cancer.

A few years ago, Mr. van Kessel began his own battle with brain cancer. He died in 2012 at the age of 52, leaving his wife, Maria, and three sons.

"Rob made this an event that people wanted to be a part of," said Brad Goodison, a Rotary member who now chairs the event, which he considers Mr. van Kessel's legacy. "He was just very calm, a voice of reason and compassion."

Added Mr. van Kessel's sister, Inge Trembly: "I live in Nova Scotia and until Robert died, I had no idea what a huge event this had become. I am incredibly proud."

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pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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