Former Osoyoos mayor proud of his participation in helping organize annual Relay for Life event

By on June 13, 2013

Tom Shields has been involved every year but one since event started back in 2005

Photo by Richard McGuire Former Town of Osoyoos Mayor Tom Shields says he’s very proud of being involved in helping organize all but one of the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life events in Osoyoos since the fundraising event kicked off in town back in 2005. Shields, who was also a former band leader and concert promoter, said he loves using his organizational skills to ensure the Relay for Life is a huge success.

Photo by Richard McGuire
Former Town of Osoyoos Mayor Tom Shields says he’s very proud of being involved in helping organize all but one of the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life events in Osoyoos since the fundraising event kicked off in town back in 2005. Shields, who was also a former band leader and concert promoter, said he loves using his organizational skills to ensure the Relay for Life is a huge success.

As a former band leader and concert promoter, Tom Shields knows how to help organize a big event. As the former mayor of Osoyoos, he knows how supportive the residents of this community are when it comes to helping out a worthy cause.

When volunteers with the Town of Osoyoos first started planning to hold a Relay for Life event here in Osoyoos back in 2005, they asked if Shields would be interested in helping out.

He was more than interested and Shields has been a big part of helping organize one of the largest annual fundraising events in this community each and every year.

“A lot of people in town knew that I had helped organize concerts here in Osoyoos and all over the place for many years in my life, so I was asked to get involved prior to our first Relay for Life and I was more than happy to get involved,” said Shields, who was the leader of the popular rock band Tommy and the T-Birds for many years.

“I had such a good time helping out with that first event that I’ve tried to help out as much as I can since. I took one year off back in 2010, but I’ve been involved every other year since the event started here in Osoyoos back in 2005.”

While the Osoyoos Relay for Life has enjoyed success since it started, there has been much more community support and fundraising success since the event moved from the Desert Park racetrack facility to Gyro Park downtown three years ago, said Shields.

“The reality is a lot of people weren’t happy with the location up at Desert Park because it was too isolated and numbers were dropping because it was a night-time event,” said Shields, who was mayor of Osoyoos for nine years over three terms dating back to 1990. “The organizing committee was losing a whole bunch of volunteers because they wanted this to be a daytime event.

“The decision was made to move it downtown to Gyro Park and make it a daytime event and things have really taken off since. Being downtown gives the relay a very high-profile when there are a lot of tourists in town and it’s a lot more central and allows everyone from the town to come out and show their support.”

Helping organize the annual Relay for Life is something he wanted to be a part of because he, like most Canadians, has been deeply affected by cancer, said Shields.

“I lost a sax player from my band, a wonderful man named Stu Dawson, who died from cancer,” said Shields. “I lost the bass player from my band dating back to the 1960s, a guy named Sam Nichols, to cancer. The list goes on and on.

“Cancer makes an impact on damn near everyone.  I’ve certainly been impacted by this terrible disease and am always more than willing to try and do my part to help raise money so that one day we might be able to say there is no more cancer.”

Shields, who helped organize the Bryan Adams concert that attracted tens of thousands of music fans to Osoyoos back in the early 1990s, said his biggest asset with the local Relay for Life has been in using his experience as an events co-ordinator to help with the logistics in organizing the event.

“A lot of the same things I use in organizing a concert event are what I bring to the table in helping organize this event,” he said. “You have a lot of people congregated in a small area and you have to be organized and have all the amenities in place to make sure everything runs smoothly on event day.

“It’s all about having a good plan in place … people have to be fed and watered, that sort of thing.”

Shields also helps organize the list of musical entertainers who perform throughout the Relay for Life.

While the entire day is special, Shields said his favourite moment every year comes when the dozens of luminaries are lit by loved ones who have lost their battle with cancer.

“That’s always a very solemn moment and very emotional,” he said. “That’s always the most meaningful moment to me.”

With the 2013 Relay for Life set to go on June 22, Shields said the local organizing committee is working hard to ensure another successful event.

“There’s great community support for this event and we’re confident we’ll be able to raise another large sum of money for the cancer society,” he said.

Last year’s event raised more than $45,000 and Shields is hopeful even more money can be raised this year.

The local organizing committee is still looking for teams interested in participating in this year’s event. Anyone who is interested can contact Maxine Boxall at 250-495-0485.

BY KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

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2 Comments

  1. W d Redick

    June 15, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Tommy. When he had his band in Collingwood Ontario was known as “shakin Tom”. We thought he was on his way to international stardom!

    • Billy Lee

      November 12, 2017 at 5:55 pm

      Tommy Shields and the Suedes. Late ’50’s. Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Rock Hill Park, Sunset Point, High Hat(Grove). Long time, lots of memories flooding back. Need to message Tom.

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