A Saskatoon native who lived in Vernon for seven years was diagnosed with stage three and four breast cancer and underwent six months of chemotherapy in 2006.
It led to Sam Roberts Band, Tom Cochrane, Aaron Pritchett, Bif Naked, the Trews, Dallas Smith, 54-40, Shinedown, Collective Soul, Billy Talent, Randy Bachman and many other internationally acclaimed bands and musicians posing with a little, home-knitted “comfort doll”.
“I would’ve had no treatment (if I lived anywhere but Canada) and because I had stage three and stage four breast cancer, I probably wouldn’t have survived it,” said Donna Mair, who has since been cancer-free for 12 years.
The care and treatment Mair received at the peak of her health issues made her sympathize with others around the world who don’t have access to the same quality of treatment.
“Instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for myself — which was very easy to do — I decided to try and find a way to give back for the amount of stuff that I had, the treatment I got and how good my life was,” Mair said.
So Mair knitted comfort dolls, asked bands through social media or management to pose with them and later auctioned off the pictures to people and donated the money to World Vision for children in third-world countries.
As the novelty of the band photos wore off, Mair decided she needed a change: she began asking for used guitar strings from these bands and created jewellery out of them, eventually selling the merchandise for charity.
The biggest challenge is to to reach the band’s fans, according to Mair.
However, sometimes bands share her social media posts and sales blow up.
“My phone literally dinged so many times that the battery died within an hour,” Mair said of when Papa Roach lead guitarist Jerry Horton advertised her charity on his platforms. “I made two hundred bracelets in three weeks.”
Her wish list of artists to receive strings from is topped by U2 and followed by the Foo Fighters and Billy Idol.
Currently, she has guitar strings from Sam Roberts, Tom Cochrane, the Glorious Sons, Big Sugar, Stephen Fearing and others.
Mair said she is thankful for all the bands who took the time to be a part of her journey — and not for the publicity, but because they truly believed in her vision.
“If it wasn’t for the cancer, a lot of the bands I had met probably would not have treated me as gently at the beginning,” Mair said, sharing that her and Bif Naked went through cancer at nearly the same time and ended up bonding and becoming friends during their time of struggle.
Mair turned 57 this year and saw Tom Cochrane at Rock the Lake on her birthday.
She said after years of struggling with cancer, she is finally comfortable with who she is and how her life has changed.
“It’s taken me 10 years to feel like I’m almost back to normal.”
Matt Johnson, 54-40’s drummer gifted her with his pair of drum sticks from his gig at Rock the Lake on Aug. 10 and Mair will auction them as a fundraising initiative.
Mair currently lives in Nakusp.
For more information and updates, visit the comfortdollproject on Instagram or comfortdollproject.com.