Saskatoon

Swift Current community pulls together for cancer-stricken fire chief, raise over $87K

Several communities in Saskatchewan worked together to help cover treatment costs for Swift Current's fire chief, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

Darren McClelland sought experimental treatment in Mexico after surgery, chemo didn't work

Darren McClelland (right) received the 25-year Saskatchewan Protective Services Medal the week before he left for Mexico. (Submitted by Darren McClelland)

Darren McClelland knew people in his community liked him, but he didn't know how much until recently.

The Swift Current fire chief was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016, which quickly spread to his liver. He fought the cancer with three surgeries and two rounds of chemotherapy, but it wasn't enough to keep the cancer away.

So, he decided to go to Mexico in early November for an experimental treatment. 

Meanwhile, his friends in Swift Current started a GoFundMe page to help cover medical expenses — it raised over $87,000 in about a month.

"To be honest, it gave me a sick feeling," McClelland said with a laugh on CBC Radio's Blue Sky, explaining that he felt a bit guilty about how much money the page raised.

Darren McClelland (middle) poses for a photo with his nurses in Tijuana, Mexico. (Nicole McClelland)

"The love and support that I got from family, friends, co-workers, the community. I mean, Swift Current is a small place and you kind of do know everybody, but it blew my mind," he said.

"It was just so humbling to feel it, see it, just everything."

McClelland and his wife recently arrived back in Swift Current.

'He's an amazing guy, kind, humble, honest, hard working.'

Donation efforts came in from surrounding places as well, such as Mankota and Hodgeville, among others.  

Greg Campbell, who served as fire captain to McClelland, has known him for years. 

"He's an amazing guy, kind, humble, honest, hard working. He's always the same, always willing to help others, always been dedicated to his family, always dedicated to whatever community he has been in," said Campbell.

"People remember that."

He said McClelland is known for some the volunteer work he's done, especially with child burn victims.

Several local organizations and businesses also stepped in.

The Swift Current Broncos helped make a video dedicated to McClelland, which was shown leading up to a Broncos game,with fundraisers held at Optical Image and Infinity Fitness as well.

The owner of Optical Image and a Swift Current firefighter have some fun during a fundraiser for Darren McClelland. (Submitted by Darren McClelland)

"I don't even know how to react to something like that," said McClelland.

He said a family friend also put a heifer for sale, donating the proceeds to McClelland's treatment.

The fundraising efforts showed McClelland how caring and thoughtful the Swift Current community is.

"You're just so thankful and appreciative of everything you get."

About the Author

Cory Coleman is a reporter, web writer and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. Have a story idea? Email cory.coleman@cbc.ca

With files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky