Chiarot family, Scotland’s Yard work to improve local pediatric cancer care

Detroit Red Wings defenceman Ben Chiarot and his wife, Jacqueline, have helped raise $3 million for the cause.

When Ben and Jacqueline Chiarot learned their friends’ three-month-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, the pair was compelled to help however they could.

Scotland Santos, affectionately known as Scottie, is thankfully a now-healthy four-year-old.

Her diagnosis and the battle that followed inspired Scotland’s Yard which works to support cancer care in the Kitcher-Waterloo region of Ontario. Founded in 2021 with a ten-year goal to raise $50 million for Grand River Hospital and its pediatric cancer programs, Scotland’s Yard has since raised $3 million to date.

“It’s such an important cause because it’s one of my closest friend’s daughters whose name is on this,” said Jacqueline, who serves as a co-chair of Scotland’s Yard Road Hockey Classic and member of Grand River Hospital Foundation’s board.

“Scottie is best friends with our daughter, so this is very important to us, and we want to make it as successful as possible.”

Scotland, the daughter of Brian Santos and Joy Stewart, is one of 200 children in her community currently receiving cancer care services.

The efforts of the Chiarots and others have already made a significant impact in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, particularly through their annual Scotland’s Yard Road Hockey Classic.

“We’ve raised $3 million as of now,” Jacqueline continued. “Roughly $700,000 of that is from our hockey tournament, which we are super proud about. This puts us at the halfway point to a new PET [positron emission tomography], which can keep more families in town since the travel is such a burden for them. Because this is a newer cause in the community, it’s still growing, but we are so happy with how rapidly.” 

This summer, over $350,000 was raised through the second edition of the road hockey tournament, which included a $25,000 donation from the NHLPA and the NHL through Hockey Fights Cancer.

A joint initiative between the NHL and NHLPA, Hockey Fights Cancer is celebrating its 25th anniversary. To mark the special occasion, donations of $25,000 were made to 10 unique groups making a difference in the fight against cancer.

“Players stepped up to help without the want of anything,” said Jacqueline of Ben’s hockey-playing peers. “They showed up, donated their time and didn’t expect anything in return. They looked like they had so much fun, which is even more important to us. We want to make sure people are enjoying their time while supporting a great cause.”

The youth team that fundraised the most was rewarded with an autograph session and professional photos with special guests at the event a list that included current NHL players Nathan Bastian, Mike Hoffman, Steven Lorentz, Logan Stanley and Boris Katchouk. Canadian Women’s team netminder and Olympic gold medalist Sami Jo Small and former NHL standout Adam Graves also took part in the festivities. The top adult team won four tickets to a Detroit Red Wings home game of their choice for the 2023-24 NHL season.

“This year, it was really neat to have such a big range of players, from junior hockey to NHL players, to Team Canada players we really covered the spectrum. That is something that gets the whole community excited,” said Jacqueline.

The Chiarots' immediate family has also been touched by cancer, making their cause even more personal.

Ben’s father, Matt, who sadly passed away this past September, had a diagnosis of metastatic melanoma.

Making a difference in the fight against all forms of cancer, including through Scotland’s Yard, will remain a significant part of Ben and Jacqueline’s lives.

“Our hope is to improve cancer care with the end goal of eventually building a children’s cancer centre here,” said Ben from this summer’s road hockey event in Kitchener.

“That’s way down the line, but every little bit helps out. You just think about the impact it can have on a family. If they don’t have to travel, they can stay in their home. Just think of the comfort it provides for the kid and for the parents.”

The Chiarots' commitment to the initiative has already helped those affected by childhood cancer.

“Last year, we had a local family whose five-year-old son is fighting cancer come to the event and it is so great for everyone to learn more about the family struggles so we can find out what needs the most help now,” said Jacqueline.

“As for future plans, it involves bringing more specialized pediatrics to the community with the addition of a new hospital. And we have already begun searching for sites for a new hospital, which is very exciting.”

Having the Chiarots help lead the way for the creation of the cancer centre has been key in the pursuit of that goal.

“We do make a good team,” added Jacqueline. “But we are also so fortunate to have support from so many people. There were times when you wondered if this initiative would work, but we are so happy with the way things have gone and excited for what the future holds.”