Two decades ago, Judi Miller opened her home to a few friends in hopes of raising money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - BC/Yukon Region.
Miller began Nite of Hope after losing her mother at age 62, followed a few years later by her sister-in-law, 31, to this horrible disease.
Little did she know then the impact she would have on breast cancer research and the women fighting the disease.
"This is the 20th year I have been raising money for breast cancer initiatives, but the 15th Nite of Hope gala in Richmond," said Miller. "I am feeling such satisfaction around the fact that this event has been sustainable in the community for 15 years.
"I am grateful to the sponsors who have supported our event, the guests who each year enjoy our event, and mostly I am very proud of my volunteer committee and chairpersons who produce the event each year with such dedication."
Since then, Nite of Hope Richmond has raised more than $2 million, which goes directly to fund specific research projects right here in British Columbia.
"While we haven't found the cure for breast cancer, I am proud to stand before our sponsors and supporters and let them know that we are seeing our monies in action and often have the researchers speak at our events," added Miller. "I think the Nite of Hope event is so popular because unfortunately nearly everyone knows someone in their life with breast cancer.
"It's a wonderful thing to be able to come to an event which sheds some light on the subject, but is uplifting and hopeful at the same time."
Miller's dream is that other communities take its model and replicate a Nite of Hope in their community.
Maya Dimapilis, director of development, annual programs at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - BC/Yukon Region, is extremely grateful to Miller and the Nite of Hope.
"Breast cancer continues to be the most common cancer in Canadian women over the age of 20," said Dimapilis, adding the foundation is the largest non-governmental donator of breast cancer research in the country. "Research has allowed experts in the field to make advances in early detection, and oncologists are now doing clinical trials that help them refine chemotherapy.
"With testing, they can help distinguish which cancers are more likely to benefit from chemotherapy."
She went on to explain that in the past, a patient's only option was chemotherapy.
However, because of the strides made by scientists in the field, women have choices besides chemotherapy.
"We have moved from a 79 per cent, five year survival rate for breast cancer in 1987 to a 91.8 per cent, five year survival rate in B.C. today," said Dimapilis. "It's clear that breakthroughs and results like these will continue to lead to better outcomes, and this will make an enormous difference in the lives of women with breast cancer."
The foundation has received more than $3.1 million over the past 14 years from Nite of Hope Richmond, White Rock/South Surrey and North Shore combined.
Because of Nite of Hope and other fundraisers, the foundation has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in fellowship funding to attract young scientists to British Columbia to study breast health and breast cancer.
"We are able to achieve this with the help, leadership and dedication of volunteers, like those who chair and sit on the Nite of Hope committees," adds Dimapilis. "They are incredible individuals who give of their personal time to the cause, their events and overall our efforts to create a future without breast cancer. We are grateful for what they do."
Last year's event raised a whopping $263,000 in one dazzling night.
"When we think we can't top the year before, our generous sponsors and guests outdo themselves," added Leonhardt.
The 15th Annual Nite of Hope Richmond, Nite at Casino Royale, happens on Thursday, April 4 in the River Rock Casino Resort Theatre, 8811 River Rd. Radio host Dale Wolfe will once more be the master of ceremonies for the evening. The event includes a dinner, fashion show, live music and silent and live auction for $150 per person.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.niteofhope.com/richmond.