Rallying behind a Yellowknife man recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, community members have donated tens of thousands of dollars to an online fundraising campaign – doubling a goal of $20,000 in less than a week.

Haslan Escalante is currently in Edmonton, where he and his family are working out a treatment plan. A longtime Yellowknifer and father of three, he was diagnosed with a sinonasal tumor earlier this month.

Olivia Lee, a high school friend of Escalante and his wife Debra McGee, launched a GoFundMe campaign on Feb. 21.

Within five hours of it going live, the fundraiser collected $10,000. The fundraiser surpassed its goal within 24 hours. As of Thursday afternoon, donors had pitched in more than $40,700.

Shea Escalante, left, Rileigh Escalante, Haslan Escalante, Lara Escalante and wife Debra McGee. Yellowknifers have dug deep into their pockets – raising over $40,000 in a few short days to support Haslan, who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Olivia Lee.

“It’s nothing short of amazing,” said Lee, who has watched donations, along with words of encouragement and support, pour in online.

“There are no words to describe how this feels in their time of need.”

The funds will be used to pay for travel costs not covered by benefits.

Lee said the campaign was launched thanks to the efforts of Escalante’s close friends.

“Fun-loving” and generous with an “infectious laugh that draws all those around him in,” Escalante has made lasting connections with countless Yellowknifers, said Lee.

A member of Ptarmigan Ptheatrics and the Curling Club, Escalante is actively involved in the community, she added.

Reacting to the “overwhelming” success of the GoFundMe campaign, Escalante’s wife of 25 years – the two met in a high school in Yellowknife – said there are simply no words to describe the support their family has received.

“The outpouring of love and support from our friends, family, co-workers and community members … has really helped us to feel supported, even when we are so far away and dealing with uncertain outcomes,” stated McGee in an email to Yellowknifer.

McGee said supportive messages have made all the difference on days when she feels “empty.”

She said her family has received financial contributions and heart-felt messages from high school friends that have since left the capital.

Lee, who plans on using the GoFundMe page to offer updates related to Escalante’s treatment, said she’s amazed by the response the effort has received – but not necessarily surprised.

“One of the many things I love about Yellowknife are the people, and how they come together when it’s needed,” said Lee.

Fundraising efforts are taking place offline, too.

According to Lee, Students Against Drunk Driving (SAAD), along with a bake sale hosted at St. Patrick High School, will raise funds in support of Escalante and his family. Ragged Ass Barber will be donating proceeds of their sales to the campaign over the weekend, added Lee.

Donations can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/hellbent-on-helping-haslan


Brendan Burke

As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility...

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