It was a packed house Thursday night at Morden's Access event Centre for South Central Cancer Resource's (SCCR) annual fundraising fashion show. The event featured models showcasing fashions from retailers across the region, with a theme of "Beauty in Bloom", and the décor to match.

"I'm thrilled at the turnout," shared SCCR Board Chair Dianne Mestdagh at the conclusion of the event. "I'm thrilled at the engagement of the people who attended. You could see people who really were listening and enjoying."

Early projections place the total amount raised at least at $50,000, more than 2023's $45,000.

"We know that we sold 320 tickets," noted Mestdagh. "We know we probably turned 100 people away. We know our sponsors covered all of our expenses, so all of the money raised from ticket sales and prize draws tonight is cash toward client programs."

One of those clients, and models during the fashion show, was Winkler's Kenton Doerksen. The father of three daughters was diagnosed with testicular cancer in February 2022, and admits his world was rocked by the news.

"I came out of that not knowing anybody that had ever gone down that journey, because nobody talks about they're nuts," he said with a chuckle, but also with a sincere seriousness about the lack of discussion men have about the illness. "It's one of those things people are private about. I was diagnosed with this, and I knew people that had survived breast cancer. I knew people that had survived lymphoma and leukemia, and all these other things, (but) nobody had survived testicular cancer, I thought. Turns out people don't talk about these things, so to me, the cancer journey started there."

Early on in his treatment, Doerksen made the decision to be very open and public about his journey via social media, and it was through that he made a tremendously important and uplifting connection.

"As I talked about my journey, other people actually came and talked to me," he said. "One of the gentlemen that reached out to me was Pastor Dale Dueck at the EMMC Church in Winkler. I don't go to that church, but he heard about my journey, and reached out and said, 'Kenton, we need to have a talk,' Coming from a gentleman that had dealt with this in the late 1980s, to me, was huge. This is a gentleman that had survived this 35 years ago."

Doerksen said that conversation, and the realization it led to regarding his own journey, changed everything for him.

"It changed how I counted days," he explained. "I went from counting years to decades, to thinking 'Hey, you know that could mean a reasonable lifespan for me,' It was hugely encouraging. He just had such a peace and calm about him too, as he walked me through his journey and how it related to mine."

He understands everyone processes this kind of news differently, and being public and open was his way, and perhaps not the next person's. He also wants others to know he's willing to speak to anyone going through cancer, and is unsure of what's next for them.

Left to right; Kenton Doerksen and his daughter MakennaLeft to right; Kenton Doerksen and his daughter Makenna

Meanwhile, Doerksen's oldest daughter, Makenna, was also a model in the fashion show, walking in support of her Dad. Along with his other daughters Anika and Blakely, and wife Andrina, his family was at the front of his mind throughout his treatment, which included rounds of chemo and surgeries.

"We were quite open with all of our girls, and at the time they would have been 12, 10 and 8 or so," he said. "We were quite open with what we were going through. We didn't know what we were going to face. We didn't know what was going to come next. We didn't know what the treatment plan would look like or anything. But I think not hiding things you're going through from your family is huge, right? They can come alongside you. It helps them to face fears, too."

And getting back to the idea of simply talking about testicular cancer, and how having the conversation in person and on platforms like PembinaValleyOnline is important, Doerksen was asked what his message would be to other men?

"I think it's important not to be hiding symptoms from yourself," he stressed. "I know I had symptoms. It hurt, and I ignored that for a couple of months before I remember I got up the nerve and said, 'You know, I'm just going to go to the the walk-in clinic, and we're going to check this,' It's so important not to ignore those symptoms. When your body doesn't feel right, don't ignore it. Let's get that thing checked out, and testicular cancer is a highly treatable cancer, but it needs to be caught, and the best way to get caught is go in and see your doctor."

Greg and Alison HesomAlison Hesom (right) shared her cancer journey after being diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer. She is now cancer free! Her husband Greg (left) shared his perspective as a family member during her treatment.

Many stories, like Doerksen's, were shared Thursday night, and Board Chair Dianne Mestdagh feels they were all remarkable.

"I think everybody here tonight probably has a little bit of a story of their own, and a reason for being here and to support this organization," she said. "Whether it was a model, or a family member they've lost, or a family member or themselves that was going through the cancer journey right now."

At the end of the event, Mestdagh announced the 2025 SCCR fashion show will be moving to the Meridian Exhibition Centre in Winkler, and will be happening May 15th. 

You can listen to CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show Host Chris Sumner (who Co-MC'd the event with Jayme Giesbrecht) and Kenton Doerksen's entire conversation, below.