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Family of late Rush drummer raises money for local cancer centre

'A lot of friends and family have been through the RVH doors,' says Neil Peart's sister, who lives in Gravenhurst
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Rush's Neil Peart is shown behind his drum kit in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre during the Snakes and Arrows tour in 2007. Peart died Jan. 7, 2020 of brain cancer. | Kevin Lamb for BarrieToday

Neil Peart’s name still bangs the drum for cancer treatment.

The late Rush drummer and lyricist was honoured by a fundraising concert, A Night for Neil, this past October at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont.

The concert proceeds and merchandise sales for the event raised thousands of dollars for four Ontario beneficiaries — Hospice Niagara and Niagara Health, both in St. Catharines, Hamilton’s Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC), and Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie.

Peart died of glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, on Jan. 7, 2020 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 67.

“That is our local cancer centre, RVH,” said his sister, Nancy Peart Burkholder, who lives in Gravenhurst and was involved with the October fundraiser.

“My dad’s best friend has brain cancer. My dad was taking him for treatment three times a week at RVH and a lot of our friends who have had cancer have been through RVH cancer centre,” she added. “It’s become a really big deal to us and so we just continued to help fund their (cancer) centre program.

“A lot of friends and family have been through the RVH doors.”

Peart Burkholder accepted a cheque worth $10,000 for Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Program on Monday morning, at the recently renamed Neil Peart Pavilion in St. Catharines.

Peart Burkholder said she has fundraised with RVH for more than a decade, partnering with radio stations and resorts.

“And then when Neil passed away, I started with RVH because it is our local cancer centre,” she said. “We developed our Peart family charity profile with RVH and we’ve been raising funds there ever since.”

Although Peart himself did not receive treatment at RVH, his sister knows he would approve of the work.

“He was a huge charity supporter and he was involved in this one as well,” she said. “When I was raising funds for the cancer centre before he passed, he would always give different items for donation and for our auctions. A lot of T-shirts, some (drum) sticks and things like that.”

Comprised of Peart, bassist/singer Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, Rush burst onto the progressive rock/metal music scene in the mid-1970s and enjoyed international success with songs such as Fly By Night, Closer to the Heart, Tom Sawyer, Spirit of Radio and New World Man, along with albums 2112 (1976), A Farewell to Kings (1977), Permanent Waves (1980), and Moving Pictures (1981). 

Rush released studio and live albums for parts of five decades, earning 24 gold and 14 platinum records.

The Canadian band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Overtime Angels, which organized the St. Catharines fundraiser, is a charity committed to helping individuals, families and small organizations which do not meet the criteria for assistance from larger social service agencies.