House party evolves into major cancer fundraiser

Judi Miller's Nite of Hope born out of love and sadness

After losing her 62-year-old mother and 32-year-old sister in law to breast cancer in 1994, Judi Miller decided it was time to fight back. With no planning experience, the homemaker and mother of two began hosting a series of "shopping nights" in her Richmond home as a way of honouring the women who died too soon. The evening featured an array of home-based business vendors selling products and clothing with proceeds going to breast cancer research. The house parties continued for five years until the numbers outgrew her home.

She decided to take her cottage event into a larger market. Miller took the idea to a local hotel and the annual Nite of Hope gala was born. To date, more than $2.5 million has been raised for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, B.C. & Yukon Region, by three Nite of Hope fundraisers in Richmond, White Rock and North Vancouver. Richmond's 14th annual Nite of Hope this past April received rock star treatment when Shannon Tweed, wife of KISS singer Gene Simmons, was the guest speaker. The evening was one of the most successful ever. The North Shore will host its fourth edition, titled Phantom Nite, Oct. 12 at the Pinnacle Pier Hotel in North Vancouver.

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Did you ever imagine your grassroots event becoming a multimillion fundraiser for cancer research?

No, my brain wasn't that big.

Why do you think it resonated with people?

Unfortunately, so many of us are touched in some way by this disease.

What lessons have you learned along the way?

If you build it, they will come. I am in awe of the survivors I have met along the journey. We dedicate each Nite of Hope to the survivors of breast cancer who have shared with us their stories of determination and courage. They put the "hope" in Nite of Hope. What's your most memorable moment?

Reaching the million dollar mark. The rose ceremony at each Nite of Hope, where we invite cancer survivors to come up to the stage and receive a rose, is always very powerful.

What is your message to women fighting cancer?

Never lose hope that a cure will be found.

Biggest success?

Attracting high profile corporate sponsors who share our vision.

Biggest setback?

Attracting new communities to host more Nites of Hope. White Rock retired their event after seven years last April.

What does success look like?

I'm happy and proud right now. It is with pride that the Nite of Hope funds three Post-Graduate Research Fellowships through the guidance of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

Best life lesson you've learned?

Stay true to your convictions and listen to your gut.

One lesson you'd love to give others?

Sometimes the simplest projects can be the most rewarding.

What do you hate most about the world?

People don't smile enough and complain too much. Life's too short.

What was your "a-ha" moment?

A demonstration of karma in action when I was in kindergarten.

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