One of the highlight’s of Alison Turnbull’s social calendar each year is attending the annual Fight to End Cancer Gala at The Old Mill in Etobicoke.
Organized by Kingsway Boxing Club owner Jennifer Huggins to benefit the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, the event features business professionals training in the art of sweet science before entering the boxing ring on gala night to fight an opponent of similar skill and stature. It can be a lawyer boxing a firefighter or a magazine editor facing a computer programmer. It generally makes for great action and over $750,000 has been donated to date since their inaugural year in 2012.
For Turnbull, it’s a no-miss event, especially when one of her colleagues at Eagle Professional Resources is fighting. In 2014, Brendhan Malone, Eagle’s VP & General Manager, Central Canada, was on the card.
“Every event there’s always a lot of drinks flowing and every year I would think, ‘This would be so awesome, I should do this.’ And I’d always wake up the next morning and go ‘Thank God (I didn’t),’ ” Turnbull said with a laugh following at workout at the Kingsway. “But it wasn’t until last year after having just lost my mom — it was a moment that came over me — my mom was actually married at The Old Mill (and) sitting there (at the show), in that moment I thought, ‘I’m doing this. Something is going to get me off the couch.’ So I went up to Jen that night and said, ‘I want to fight and do whatever I have to do.’”
Huggins was thrilled and arranged for Turnbull to come meet her at the club.
“I showed up in ripped jeans and sparkly ballet flats,” said Turnbull with a laugh. “We talked for about five minutes and she said, ‘Ok, get changed.’
And I said, ‘Uh, what do you mean?’ So I had to borrow a pair of her shorts. And there I was with sparkly ballet flats and borrowed shorts running through the different punches. I was very out of my element.”
Turnbull began training in earnest for this year’s show (which will be held on June 2) last July. After her first workout, she had to take the next day off at work — something she certainly doesn’t make of habit of doing. Slowly however, the training and the constant improvement of her fitness turned into a revelation for the professional headhunter.
“After a few classes, one day I was wrapping my hands and I looked around and I thought, ‘Wow. This is my church,’ ” said Turnbull, who never considered herself a sports-minded person, partly because she has a history of back problems. “But now I feel amazing. I have renewed energy, I love it. I love everything about it. And I’m so glad it’s happening now. I’m almost 50 and I think it’s really going to change the rest of my life. Just knowing how it feels to be physically fit.”
What made Turnbull decide to become an active participant in the Fight to End Cancer rather than just a spectator was the death of her mom, Iris Collins, from cancer in Sept. 2016.
“It was so sudden,” said Turnbull. “At 77, she could take me in arm wrestling. This was the woman that was going to live until 110 and nobody would have ever questioned that.
“Never had a thing wrong with her,” Turnbull added. “In July of that year (2016), one of her neighbours said, ‘Iris, you’re yellow’. She noticed she looked a bit jaundiced. And within two days they diagnosed pancreatic cancer and within 10 weeks she was gone.”
Ten years earlier, Iris had lost her husband to cancer.
Turnbull began sparring in February and to an extent she is still wrapping her head around the idea of punching an opponent and taking a punch in return. The act of inflicting physical punishment on another person isn’t a natural inclination for Turnbull, nor is it to many of the professionals who climb in the ring for the first time. But she has come to understand that boxing is as much an art as a form of aggression, and in a controlled environment there’s a certain beauty in its practice. Turnbull has become a passionate convert.
“There are still very hard days,” she said. “But as my mom used to say, we Turnbull’s are tough.”
There is no doubting that. One of Turnbull’s heroes was her sister Barbara who, in a case that gripped the GTA back in 1983, was shot during a robbery while working at a convenience store near the family home in Mississauga. Barbara Turnbull, who was 18 at the time, was paralyzed from the neck down yet overcame her injuries to become an award-winning journalist at the Toronto Star and an leading activist for those with physical disabilities. Barbara, who passed away in May 2015, became an inspiration not just to her family but for thousands of others who followed her story.
“She never complained, she was just always so positive,” said Alison. “She was awesome. She was a fighter.”
As is her younger sister.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies