Fred Burley's name and face are familiar to many within Airdrie. Once a city councillor, now a Rocky View Schools school trustee, Burley has always had a penchant for helping anyone and everyone who has asked. Now he is asking for the community's help.

In late January, his 28-year-old daughter, Katie, discovered that she has an exceedingly rare form of sarcoma, which is a cancer that begins in the bones and soft tissues. Burley's daughter was diagnosed with CIC-rearranged sarcoma. It is estimated that only 200 people across the globe have been diagnosed with this form of cancer.

"It was a kick in the gut, is what it was [when we found out]," Burley said. "It was devastating."

Burley and his wife, Sharon, who is also known as a pillar in the community, would fly out to Ontario where his daughter and her husband live in early February, to be with their family. While Katie's husband continued to work, her parents would help drive her to medical appointments, and chores around the house.

Burley, who was emotional when talking about what the family has been through, said he decided to share his daughter's story in the hopes of raising awareness but also being honest and open about the family's struggles and how they have found hope.

"Maybe somebody knew somebody else that might have had something similar that was undergoing treatment as well, so we can help each other; if their doctor came up with something when they were down at the Mayo Clinic in Boston," Burley said. "That's why we wanted to get out there and bring awareness."

Katie has already undergone 10 sessions of radiation and is also undergoing chemotherapy. The hope is that the multiple rounds of both chemotherapy and radiation will shrink the sarcoma enough for it to be operable. Upon hearing the news that her hair would fall out as a result of the treatments, Katie asked both her husband and father if they too would shave their heads. Burley said he didn't hesitate for a moment and said he would have done it even without his daughter asking.

And so, on May 25, Burley will be hosting an event at Airdrie's 1861 Local Bar & Grill (1861 Meadowbrook Drive) where he will shave his head to honour his daughter.

"It's to raise awareness, but it's also to raise funds for sarcoma research. So far, we're over $4,000 and that's before we actually started the actual fundraiser. I just had people donating in Katie's name at first, and we got to $4,000 on that," he said. "Every dollar raised could be the dollar that makes a difference, you never know."

All Airdrie residents are invited to join in on the night to bolster support for the family and are also invited to support the family by donating online. According to a news release, the person with the largest donation will be doing the shaving.

Despite there being difficult days of watching his daughter struggle with weakness and nausea, being unable to move out of bed, Burley said his daughter has a quick and sardonic wit, much like her father, and is as tough as a stormtrooper. In true dry humour, Katie named the tumour Helen, though Burley underlined it isn't meant to be an insult to anyone named Helen. Instead, it comes from the idea that the sarcoma has meant she has gone through hell and back. The name of the May 25 event has also been appropriately dubbed: Team Hell 'n' Back - Burley Family Take on their biggest fight.

When asked how the Airdrie community has responded to the Burleys' rallying call for help, he said that it has been overwhelming.

"I know we're going to have a successful event. I've made a lot of friends and relationships over the 30 years here and most people that know me, know Fred really is a nice guy that's going to help you whenever you need help and now, I'm asking for their help."

Despite the family's tribulations, Burley made it clear he continues to be proud of his daughter and his son and said that he will remain to be an eternal optimist. 

"[Katie] She speaks her mind and she's always known what she wanted to be in life and I'm proud of that," Burley said. "We're just incredibly proud of our daughter and our son, we have a son Jacob as well and we're proud of our kids. They're very special human beings and they're good people and that's what we always want just to raise good people."

The Saturday, May 25 event will begin at 6 p.m. and run till 9, with the head shaving portion taking place at 8 p.m. 

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