Bruce Charron was a founder of the Andy Collins for Kids Foundation, which has raised nearly $5 million for the Montreal Children's Hospital during the last two decades. The rubber duck symbol is synonymous with the Andy Collins for Kids Foundation. Credit: Courtesy of Andy Collins for Kids Foundation. Courtesy of Andy Collins for Kids Foundation.
Bruce Charron died in the most freakish of ski accidents last February, the day before he was to be honoured for helping to raise nearly $5 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. He never knew that he was about to receive an award.
But now the hospital and his friends are making sure Charron gets his proper due.
On Oct. 20, a tribute for Charron will take place at the Tavern on the Square with proceeds going to the hospital. With his wife, Anne, in attendance, the Children’s Hospital Foundation will announce that a hospital room will be named for Charron. The hospital had already presented its Community Leadership and Volunteer Award of Excellence for Charron to his family.
Charron, 68, was a founder and bedrock of the Andy Collins for Kids Foundation, which, thanks in large part to his efforts, has raised the nearly $5 million for the hospital over the last 22 years.
An expert skier, Charron died Feb. 10 at the Jay Peak Resort in Vermont after losing a ski and slamming into a tree. Ski patrollers performed CPR and put him in a rescue tobaggan on the slope, but by the time they got him to the centre’s infirmary, he had succumbed to his injuries.
The father of three girls and grandfather of two was the most unlikely of fundraisers. The Montreal West entrepreneur helped launch Andy Collins for Kids for his childhood friend, who died far too young at 46 in 1996. Andy Collins was a bon vivant non pareil. He made my late boulevardier colleague Nick Auf der Maur look like a choirboy by comparison.
Yet Charron managed to conscript Collins’s many cronies, only slightly less rambunctious, to commemorate his death by launching an annual golf tournament to benefit the Children’s Hospital.
Few gave this “reprobate” group — as they were oft referred to — any chance of success or of sustaining the Collins charity and golf tournament. Initially, the Children’s Hospital had its doubts as well.
Valerie Frost, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation’s director of donor relations, concedes that Charron didn’t fit the typical fundraiser mould.
“I had never been to a golf tournament quite like this … it was more dance party than golf,” marvels Frost. “That was our tip-off that Bruce and his gang were outside the standard fundraising box. Bruce’s idea was to put the ‘fun’ in fundraising, and that he did in spades.”
Dave Masterson, one of Charron’s closest friends and Andy Collins Foundation board member, acknowledges that Charron’s enthusiasm was infectious: “He mobilized a bunch of — then — young guys to do something good about something bad, the sudden death of Andy. We went off like fools, not knowing a thing about fundraising, but with Bruce’s leadership, we somehow got it together.”
And once Charron’s buddies were in, they stayed put.
“Many times I tried to get out,” Masterson says. “But as I told Bruce: ‘This was like being in a biker gang. Once you’re in, you never get out.’ Fortunately, Bruce made sure of that.”
The irony is that so many of those now involved with the Andy Collins for Kids annual golf event didn’t know Collins.
“I would say that three-quarters of those who attended this year’s golf tournament never met Andy,” says Bruce’s brother, Peter Charron. “But they all knew Bruce.
“Bruce and I talked together three or four times a week, and not being able to talk to him is such a challenge. He was such an inspiration, leading by example.”
Beyond the party camaraderie, Charron’s commitment to the hospital cause was steadfast and serious.
“We would chat for hours about everything Bruce wanted to do,” Frost says. “He was forever coming up with innovative projects, and once he had a project in mind, he was just so tenacious to make it happen. It wasn’t just about raising money. It was about his engagement to the cause.”
Some of the projects Charron was involved with were: On the Tip of the Toes, allowing young cancer patients to embark on wilderness adventures; music and art therapy for patients; the Dr. Clown service; and a head-trauma prevention program, which, Frost notes, was “Bruce’s passion project to keep kids out of the hospital.”
After his death, Frost was struck to learn how much Charron was doing for other community causes, from providing scholarships to needy students to his Concordia University alma mater to raising funds for the Montreal West Aquatics Club. “He also had a business to run and was such a family man, too. I just don’t know where he found the time for everything.
“The tragedy is everyone but Bruce knew we were planning a celebration for him the day after he was killed,” Frost adds. “We were so excited to present him that honour, because we felt no one deserved it more. No matter what he did, he had an impact. That’s quite the legacy.”
Tribute to Bruce Charron takes place Oct. 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Tavern on the Square. Information and tickets: andycollinsforklds.ca.