Bo Cooper’s miracle

Bo Cooper is a 26-year-old fire fighter from Fort McMurray who is currently at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland receiving a cutting edge treatment for leukemia. Not yet approved in Canada, this Cat T Cell therapy has a great chance to save Bo’s life. He is in the middle of the process right now, thanks to a fundraising miracle that is taking place in northern Alberta.

Rob van Hecke, the spokesperson for this unparalleled effort was my guest on IMPACT, a weekly radio show on KAOS 91.1, a collaboration with FuseSocial. He provided an update on the treatment that Bo is receiving down in the states.

“Bo has had his treatment and is now in the expected stages of the trial where he is having his reaction to the Car T cells,” said van Hecke. “He is sick right now, but the doctors are very positive. They are seeing signs of the Car T cells working in his body.”

The procedure has show a 90-percent success rate is very expensive and is not covered in Canada. With total expenses expected to be in the $650,000 US range, around $900,000 CAN is going to need to be raised. That fundraising effort began on November 25th and, as of about a week ago, has generated over $780,000.

“Everybody here in Fort McMurray has had different ideas for events,” shared van Hecke. “They’ve opened up their hearts and their wallets. It’s been amazing. I really don’t know what other words to use.”

Faced with an opportunity to give Bo a fighting chance, family and friends looked at all the options. In the end, they put out the call for help. Even as our community faced its most significant downturn in a generation, people of all ages and financial circumstances answered the call. The urgency of the need ignited a response, that literally spread like wildfire.

“The GoFundMe had a huge response in the first couple of days,” said Rob. “Then I started the Facebook page. Within an hour of starting the page we had 2,000 followers.”

What stood out for me as a significant tipping point was a video that showed Bo’s dad Rob Cooper, doing a radio interview. As a parent, I felt his desperation. I was not alone.

“There was a lot of emotion displayed in some of the media interviews,” he said. “As hard as it was, just telling the story and hearing the personal aspect of it was what really touched people. The heaviness in the room that day – there wasn’t a dry eye; the cameraman, the radio person, everybody. It was a tough moment.”

That video, combined with an unparalleled spread on social media, contributed to an outpouring of support that resulted in a period of time when over $100,000 being raised weekly.

“There are people who don’t know Bo and have taken this to a personal level,” said Rob. “They want to see this through to the end. They want to do absolutely everything they can to help this man they don’t even know. This has become a personal venture for people.”

From a community that has often been vilified by mainstream media, this demonstration of compassion and generosity is a story that deserves to be told.

“I’d like to see Chatelaine or any of those other magazines step up,” said van Hecke. “Tell this story and talk about how great the people of Fort McMurray have been and how great they are.”



Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.