Jail-N-Bail raises money for cancer fight

Matt Gardner
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Several dozen Prince Albert residents were abducted and imprisoned Thursday on trumped-up charges. Fortunately, it was for a good cause.

Victoria Hospital nursing unit manager of surgery Sheila Cooper was just one of many P.A. residents put behind bars for Jail-N-Bail, a fun event sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society to raise money for cancer research. Her “crime”? Denying too many vacation requests.

The Canadian Cancer Society held its 23rd Annual Jail-N-Bail at the Gateway Mall from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Individuals delighted in throwing their bosses, spouses, friends or family members behind bars and obliging them to raise money for “bail” that would go toward the battle against cancer.

“It’s a fun way to raise money,” Canadian Cancer Society unit manager Charlene Bernard said. “We have a lot of laughs with it. It’s kind of like (people) having a little prank on their friends. When people call in to get them arrested, they usually have silly charges, like ‘Works too hard,’ or one this morning was, ‘They wouldn’t eat a cupcake.’”

“Accusers” dialed a special number to order someone’s arrest. A team of “arrest officers” would later show up at the person’s home or workplace, announce the charges and whisk them away in handcuffs.

Upon arrival at the mall, the accused would be brought before a celebrity judge who would examine the charges and requested bail amount before passing a sentence and setting bail. The new jailbird then had to phone up family and friends and raise enough money to meet “bail” and be released.

All participation was voluntary and no one was kept against their wishes, but most prisoners were game for the challenge.

 “It’s all about having fun,” Bernard said. “And I’ll tell you, some people, when they first come here they’re a little intimidated. But I think people enjoy making the phone calls to their loved ones saying, ‘I’m in jail and I need bail money.’ I hear lots of people laughing.”

All proceeds from the event went to support the work of the Canadian Cancer Society in Prince Albert and Saskatchewan, including research, patient support services, public education and advocacy. The Cancer Society had a target of $25,000 and at the time of writing appeared to be doing very well.

One prisoner who exceeded fundraising expectations was Victoria Hospital unit manager of day surgery Sheila Cooper. Accused by hospital staff of “denying too many vacation requests,” Cooper’s bail was set at $500. But with the help of two colleagues, Acute Care Services director Sharon Griffin and vice-president of Integrated Health Services Carol Gregoryk, Cooper managed to pull in almost $1,100.

My experience of prison life was awesome! These ladies are great. I should have stayed longer. Sheila Cooper

Her arrest, as with most prisoners, initially came as a surprise.

“It was quite traumatic,” Cooper said. “It was two EMS drivers. They’re like, ‘Are you Sheila?’ And I said, “Yes,” because I thought there was a problem with a transfer, and they said ‘We have to handcuff you.’ And I said, ‘What?’ … It was kind of a shocking experience. Then they explained what they were doing, and … I was good. We came down here. A little embarrassing walking through everywhere all handcuffed.”

Cooper had suspicions regarding her accuser, who turned out to be licensed practical nurse Lisa Grimes. But hospital staff said Cooper was a good sport.

“I actually missed it,” Grimes said of her boss’s arrest. “I was sitting at home laughing, looking at my clock, and then I got the texts from everybody at work telling me, ‘Good job, buddy,’ and telling me she was shocked … But I chose not to go, because I didn’t want to reveal that it was me.”

Grimes wryly suggested that Friday would be an interesting day at work. But her boss’s time in the joint may not have been as draconian as the hype suggested.

“My experience of prison life was awesome!” Cooper said. “These ladies are great. I should have stayed longer. I got Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s.”

Despite her pleasant stay and impressive fundraising efforts, “ex-con” Cooper had a playful warning for hospital staff following her release.

“They better be careful next year,” she said with a smile. “I can definitely see one of them maybe sitting behind there.”

Organizations: Canadian Cancer Society, Victoria Hospital, Acute Care Services Integrated Health Services Carol Gregoryk EMS

Geographic location: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

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