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Businessman turns personal ordeal into a promise for the future

Romeo De Gasperis speaks at a tribute dinner on June 11.

David Artemiw

The Gift: Helping to raise $2.25-million

The Cause: Lymphoma Foundation Canada

The Reason: To support awareness of lymphoma and research

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Toronto businessman Romeo De Gasperis has been living with lymphoma for more than a decade and he has seen the benefits of research into the disease first-hand. So when Lymphoma Foundation Canada asked him to help with a fundraising event, he was ready.

"I couldn't refuse," Mr. De Gasperis said. "It was an opportunity to raise awareness and to give back."

He knows all too well the challenges of living with lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the body's immune system. His doctors missed the illness at first and he spent three years not knowing why he was so sick, despite having numerous symptoms.

When doctors finally discovered what was wrong, Mr. De Gasperis endured years of surgery and chemotherapy. Those treatments led to remission but the cancer returned five years later. Once again the treatments have helped, but now Mr. De Gasperis has learned he has leukemia as well.

He said the experience has taught him to enjoy life, something he didn't understand after he first went into remission.

"The first time around, I didn't really get it. I was a workaholic. The second time, I got it," he said, adding that he has backed off his workload.

In June, he helped organize a fundraising dinner in Toronto for the foundation. About 1,200 people attended and the event raised $2.25-million.

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The foundation "was hoping to raise $1.5-million and I was a bit worried about that," he recalled. "To raise $2.25-million was just mind-boggling."

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