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Support Sheila Colla Through Cancer Treatment

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There is a good chance that you already know Sheila Colla: she is a brilliant academic, conservationist, author, political advocate, parent, and community leader. She is also our dear friend.

Sheila recently received the devastating and shocking news that she has a rare and aggressive form of thoracic cancer. She is trying to remain positive, as there are some very new treatments and clinical trials that she may be eligible for, but she and her loved ones are reeling and the situation is very serious. While we don’t yet know exactly what Sheila’s treatment will involve, we know that it will be very difficult, and may require care at a centre of excellence outside the country with extraordinary travel and medical expenses not covered.

Sheila is an incredibly generous person, endlessly giving of herself to support her friends, neighbours, colleagues, students, community members, and family. If you live in east Toronto, you probably know her because you’ve seen her around and witnessed her support for her neighbours and people in the community - whether or not she knows them personally. You might have connected through East Enders Against Racism, a group she helped found, or through her volunteer work in local Facebook groups that connect and support thousands of parents. You may have helped her support a family of refugees new to Canada. Maybe you’ve sung with her in choir. Or, you might have followed her on a “bee walk” through the Don Valley, learning how to identify a common eastern bumblebee while admiring a patch of jewelweed.

Sheila’s deep care for her community is matched by her deep care for vulnerable native ecology. If you aren’t a conservation scientist but know something about the plight of native bumblebees, Sheila is very likely the reason. And if you are a conservation scientist, then we don’t have to tell you about her dedication to the field. She’s written 50 peer-reviewed, published journal articles; three peer-reviewed books; two book chapters. By Google Scholar’s count, her work’s been cited 4,250 times. (Even actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio cited one of her non-academic articles advocating for the bumblebees - she somehow finds time to write those too! - to his millions of followers.) And she has mentored so many conservationists who have in turn gone on to do powerful, essential work for our planet. It is not an exaggeration to say Sheila’s academic and professional contributions to changing the world for the better are immeasurable.

Her support for those who most need it - from neighbours and friends and family to strangers to the tiniest at-risk pollinators - is beautiful and admirable and beyond our ability to fully put into words. But if you know Sheila, or know of Sheila even, you know.

Right now, Sheila needs that support from us.

Sheila will be taking a leave of absence from work and her husband Marc, a gifted musician and music teacher, will become her primary caregiver, requiring a step back from his professional commitments. There are no financial safety nets for artists who need to reduce their work and income. We don’t want Sheila or Marc to spend a single thought worrying about bank accounts. We want Sheila to be able to rest, spend time with her family, and access essential and complementary physical and mental health treatments not covered by insurance. We want - and we know you want - Sheila to have every chance to watch her young children grow up.

We know that these are difficult times for many - please know that any amount you can contribute is gratefully appreciated. For those who would prefer to give directly through etransfer, gifts can be sent to IBAN BE25 9673 4450 7182 and will be auto-deposited into Sheila’s account. If you can’t donate at this time, it is also meaningful to share the campaign with your personal reasons for wanting to see Sheila supported. Your own loved ones may be moved by your care for her and want to help too. We want to surround Sheila in the same love and support that she has shown so many.

Thank you for your generosity.

Anna Penner, Krista Holmes, and Victoria MacPhail- three of Sheila’s friends, representing many more

Please note: We understand that this news is very difficult and will likely come as a shock to those of you who know Sheila. Sheila has guided and approved what we have shared in this campaign, and we will post updates as directed by her. We ask that you not reach out to her with questions about her diagnosis or treatment at this time, as she and her family are very overwhelmed. You are welcome to share messages of support here: although Sheila might not be able to respond to each one, your care is deeply appreciated.



  • dana harrison
    • $25 
    • 2 d
  • Guinevere Marie Kern
    • $25 
    • 4 d
  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 6 d
  • Janine Barclay
    • $20 
    • 6 d
  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 7 d

Fundraising team (3)

Anna Penner
East York, ON
Sheila Colla
Krista Holmes
Team member
Victoria MacPhail
Team member

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