We’re shining a spotlight on Fight Like Mason Foundation, a registered charity organization located in Belle River, ON, formed by Iain Macri and Chantelle Bacon, parents of Mason Bacon-Macri. We chat with Iain, who shares their story on how his family was impacted by Rhabdomyosarcoma. Iain also talks about the challenges he and his wife faced when establishing a charity, as well as the fulfilling moments that remind them of the impact they are making that give other children a chance to fight just like their son did.
What led you to start your foundation?
Our son Mason was diagnosed with childhood cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma in 2015, just before his third birthday. We went on our journey all over Ontario and down to Houston, Texas, while he fought his cancer so he had a really good first stretch where he responded really well to therapy. Unfortunately, there were a couple of really large setbacks where the disease progressed, and ultimately he passed away, just after his fourth birthday on June 27, 2016. Just before he passed away, Chantelle and I made him a promise. A promise that we would continue his fight and fight for all the other kids and families affected by childhood cancer. We don’t break promises in our house, we kept our word, and started this foundation a few months after he passed away.
We had this mission to create a kid friendly intravenous (IV) pole because Mason was hooked up to an IV pole most of his treatment over the course of a year and a half. We wanted to create IV poles that had never been done before to brighten up the hospital room and allow kids to feel proud of their fight.
We also wanted to make a small donation to change the childhood cancer research funding profile across Canada and the US as childhood cancer is one of the lower funded types of diseases in the whole umbrella from the government funding. Fast forward five years, we’ve raised over $1.4 million dollars towards our childhood cancer research initiatives and programs as well as donated 361 IV polls across Ontario. We’ve also donated almost $350,000 to our research programs and have over 10 support programs across the Windsor Essex area and Ontario.
What were you doing before you started your business?
We were newly married, a young active family with Mason. We were extremely outgoing people who had just started our new life together when Mason got sick and all of a sudden, everything was turned upside down really quickly. Getting Mason better was our priority.
What do you think was the biggest challenge encountered along this journey?
Well, we’ve been very fortunate with the community response to our story. It’s very difficult emotionally because it forces my wife and I to be very vulnerable with intimate details in our life. We’re sharing our sick, dying son with the world and we’re constantly reliving a lot of those moments. Being so public is a big challenge for a lot of people but being out there in changing the landscape of how the community looks at childhood cancer is very rewarding. We have been very active in the last few years, putting ourselves out there, canvassing, taking any opportunity we can to share our message, our goals, our programs and how they’re helping children and families. I think by getting out there and explaining why what you’re doing is important helps provide a great stepping stone for other organizations to do the same. Don’t be afraid to share how you’re trying to help.
A challenge I see others face is being hesitant to take a leap, or make that first step. So, by having someone like the Fight for Mason Foundation out there already, it gives people the reassurance they need to be engaged and voice their need for something they believe is important.
How has the pandemic impacted your organization?
Charitable organizations have been affected greatly by the pandemic. There aren’t a lot of fundraisers going on due to gathering restrictions and it’s been hard to get support through fundraising events. This has made it very challenging for us to meet our program goals, as well as fundraising goals at the same time. One of our main programs was dressing up as superheroes to visit children in the hospitals, but we pivoted our strategy to virtual visits, and drive bys to houses. However, a lot of our other programs continue to run. We still make research donations, we still donate IV poles across the province, and we have done our best to continue to offer support programs that families need.
Why did you choose Xero and what specific solution did Xero offer?
When we first started off, we didn’t know too much about how to run a charity. I have a science background and my wife’s a hairstylist so we were writing down all of our bookkeeping in actual hardcopy books. We used a green little ledger book where we wrote down our costs and expenses, and we kept all our receipts. We were literally doing everything by hand because that’s what we thought you had to do. Lo and behold, Xero was suggested by our amazing accountants when we brought them our stack of books and receipts.
One of our account managers set Xero up to enable us to do all of our official tax receipts through it so when it’s time to send invoices out, we send out official tax receipts and get it logged just like that. That has literally revolutionized the way we do our day to day operations. Before, I would manually process stacks of tax receipts, which was incredibly time consuming. Xero saves me time and energy as well as an immense amount of headache.
What tools help you improve the processes in your organization?
Xero helps us keep track of how much we spend on each of our programs, breaking down the program costs year-on-year. This is so useful because we can see how each program is performing and budget accordingly towards what our goals are. It’s super helpful to have all that information so effortlessly allowing us to look at how we can scale.
Finally, how do you feel about your business prospects beyond 2021? What are you most excited about?
We want to be able to bring a lot of the programs that we offer as a charity to sick children, starting here in Canada. Accessing important initiatives and programs shouldn’t be geographically specific. Ideally, we want to put our custom IV poles in the hands of every child who needs one, giving them something that’s cool, fun, and unique. So really expanding our reach to be able to service more communities outside of our local area would be one of our ultimate goals. We also want to change the idea of how a taboo subject like childhood cancer is looked at all across Canada. We want to be able to give families affected by childhood cancer a positive outlook, and show them there are individuals or organizations, like ours, really trying to make a difference. Sometimes, you do feel very helpless and alone, like you’re the only ones going through this. We hope that we can eventually change that and be a part of that change.
The Small Business Spotlight series helps us understand the mindset of small businesses or not-for-profit organizations. It is also a reminder why Xero is in business – to support and help make life better for those owners so they have more time to focus on their business or organization.