Meet Ellen Kane, Wine Queen! 

For someone who thought she wouldn’t be good at it, Ellen Kane has become the queen of obtaining wine donations for BRIGHT Run 2024! 

At last count, 67 bottles of Niagara Region wine had been collected, along with more than $1,000 in gift certificates for tastings. Given Ellen’s new-found calling, chances are those numbers will go up between now and event day. 

“I feel great about it!” she said. “It’s been surprisingly fulfilling and fun. I just had to leave my caution behind.” 

Ellen, who retired from her banking career in 2017, has never seen herself as volunteer material. 

“It’s not that I’m shy – I’m not,” she laughed. “My background is banking and finance. It’s completely out of my wheelhouse, my comfort zone, to volunteer.” 

Ellen has been friends with BRIGHT Run event chair Nancy McMillan for at least 25 years. And she was a steady support during Nancy’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment 17 years ago. 

“She has always been in the wings,” Nancy said of Ellen. “So very supportive all the way.” 

Earlier this spring, Nancy asked Ellen to help collect wine donations for BRIGHT fundraising efforts. 

“I said sure, because I know the wineries,” Ellen said. “But I really didn’t expect much success.” 

The two took a very organized approach, working from a list of wineries and a map of the area to plot their route on each day of their quest.   

At the first winery they visited, the Leaning Post Winery in Stoney Creek, co-founder and certified sommelier Nadia Senchuk pulled out a Niagara wineries map, circled some wineries she thought would make a donation, and provided contact names.  

“We hit everyone on her map,” Ellen said. “And everyone made a donation!” 

They kept going after they completed Nadia’s suggested circuit and, at each place they stopped, the two spoke to representatives and provided an introductory letter that explained why they were asking for a donation. 

“I never thought it would be as successful as it has been,” Ellen said. “But it’s a good cause that hits home with people who have had any kind of cancer experience, or know someone who has. And the fact that the money stays locally means a lot to people in Niagara.” 

Many times, the answer was an immediate yes, and often Ellen and Nancy walked away with more than they asked for.  

For those on the fence, Ellen diligently followed up by phone about a week later, not giving up until she got a yes or, a few times, a definitive no. 

“The first few follow-ups were really hard for me,” she said. “That was the hardest part for me, but it got easier the more I did it.” 

Along the way, the two had lots of fun, found hidden gems, and learned more than they expected about the wine industry. 

“I knew nothing about sugar ratings, but the winemaker at Legends Estate Winery in Beamsville explained it all,” Ellen said. “And at Featherstone Estate Winery in Vineland, they borrow sheep to prune the grape vines and fertilize the soil. Sheep!” 

Although she’s not finished collecting wine for 2024, Ellen is ready to start working on next year! 

And she has some wise words for others who hesitate to ask for donations. 

“If you share your passion for the cause, often you don’t actually have to ask,” she said. “I expect the best of myself and I was concerned I would disappoint myself. But see what happens when you just ask!” 

Look for some of the fruits of Ellen’s labour at the event-day silent auction.