Hedley plays private show for Perth school that won cancer fundraising contest

A Perth, Ont., high school was treated to a private show by Canadian band Hedley after students won a fundraising contest — raising $54,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society last year.

Band's bassist Tommy Mac battled cancer in 2011

A Perth, Ont., high school was treated to a private show by Canadian band Hedley after students won a fundraising contest — raising $54,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society last year. The band's bassist Tommy Mac is a cancer survivor. 1:19

Hundreds of students lined up outside their high school in Perth, Ont., on a crisp Saturday afternoon before crowding into a dark gym for a private show from Canadian band Hedley — the top prize for winning a cancer fundraising contest.

Students at St. John Catholic High School raised more than $56,000 during the last school year, capping off 15 years of raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society and amassing a grand total of more than $680,000.

It's a cause close to the hearts of Hedley's band members — bassist Tommy Mac had his own battle with cancer in 2011.

"It is a very important subject that hits home because I've been five years cancer-free, now," he said, emphasizing that the Canadian Cancer Society helped him through his battle.

He initially hid his diagnosis from his bandmates, preferring to deal with it privately.

It is a very important subject that hits home because I've been five years cancer-free, now.- Tommy Mac, Hedley bassist

"Everybody deals with it differently. I don't think there's any right way or wrong way," Mac said.

Years later, he said he's "ready" to talk about it. He's glad that Hedley — a band that packed the Canadian Tire Centre when it toured through Ottawa in April — is performing an intimate show in a high school gym to support the student fundraising effort.

"It's easy for us to do. It's simple for us to say, 'Oh, yeah, we'll be the prize. We'll be the bait.' I think it's our responsibility. We have a voice and we need to be able to use it for great causes like this."

The B.C. band played an intimate show for the teens, who swayed back and forth as they sang along, held their smartphones up high to get videos of their favourite songs — and even threw candy on stage for the band.

"Has this been pre-chewed? It tastes pre-chewed," lead singer Jacob Hoggard joked with the crowd, after popping a mint in his mouth.

School's 15th Relay For Life

Sarah Noonan led fundraising efforts for Relay For Life at her school last year.

Sarah Noonan led fundraising efforts for the Canadian Cancer Society at St. John Catholic High School in Perth, Ont., last school year. (CBC)

Now studying nursing at St. Lawrence College, Noonan said she's proud to be back at her high school to mark not only the money raised last year, but also 15 years of fundraising for the cause.

"I feel so privileged to be a part of this. It's something that I'm really proud of and to get to see it finish off with such a hurrah — to celebrate our 15th anniversary of Relay For Life," she said.

Noonan encouraged students to pick up the baton to lead effort this school year — and continue the generous tradition.

"Everybody is affected by somebody who has cancer or has passed away from cancer. So it's a very easy thing to get passionate about and support," she said. "It's a fight worth fighting."

Cam Whalen, who works for the youth branch of Relay For Life in eastern Ontario, said the annual event gives students a chance to be leaders in the fight against cancer.

"It's really neat to see all these students for all the diverse groups of a school come together for one cause — to fight against cancer," he said.

Hedley lead singer Jacob Hoggard talks to the crowd during a private show at St John Catholic High School in Perth, Ont., on Oct. 1, 2016. (Chloé Fedio/CBC)