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Vancouver actor, brewery raising awareness about blood donation needs, one can at a time

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Lynn Johnston has always had the need for speed and regularly frequented the Mission Raceway Park before she was forced to slow down in June 2023.

That’s when the mother of two learned a suspected arthritis flare up was actually something much more serious--acute myelogenous leukemia.

There’s no cure for this type of cancer, which has left the 64-year-old reliant on blood and platelet transfusions.

Her son, Tyler Johnston, describes the diagnosis as a blind side.

“My sister and I jumped into caregiving mode about 100 per cent,” he tells CTV News. “You realize pretty quickly how important the need for blood and platelet donors is because without these transfusions my mom’s quality of life would not be what it is today.”

According to Canadian Blood Services, it could take up to eight donors a week to help someone with leukemia; more than 100 plasma donations are needed to treat one person for a year.

However, only two per cent of eligible Canadians donate blood or plasma.

To raise awareness about the dire need for blood donors—and honour the woman who raised him—Tyler has teamed up with a brewery in East Vancouver to create a beer with a cause.

Dan Webster, the owner of Container Brewing, admits he originally pitched a collaboration with the actor in hopes of benefiting from Tyler’s Letterkenny fan base.

After the pair met for a few beers, however, they realized they have something awful in common.

“My mother was unfortunately diagnosed and then died one week later from a brain tumour,” Webster explains.

Together, the men crafted the idea of brewing a light lager—something Lynn loves drinking—and hosting a launch party to raise funds for a charity of her choice.

Lynn’s Lite Lager launched at Container Brewing on June 16, on the heels of National Blood Donor Week.

The can features a steering wheel and other things Lynn loves, like the colour purple and a hummingbird.

Ten per cent of all beer sales that day, along with $1 per can sold were donated to Lynn’s charity of choice.

Cans of Lynn's Lite Lager make their way down the line at Container Brewing.

Everything about the launch party—from the food truck offerings to the music—was planned with Lynn in mind. Mom’s Grilled Cheese food truck served her favourite comfort food, and her son’s pals provided live entertainment as Eastblvd Records.

Webster says a total of $3,600 was raised between the launch party and Tyler’s fundraising efforts.

Representatives from Canadian Blood Services were also at the event to educate attendees on blood donation and encourage people to sign up to give.

“We’re rallying behind Lynn to support her in this battle,” says CBS Community Development Manager Chelsey Hugelshofer.

She adds that the need for blood is constant since, on average, someone in Canada needs blood every 60 seconds. However, donated blood can only be stored up to 42 days, while platelets expire after one week.

“Some people say that the reason they haven’t donated is because no one has asked them to, so we’re out here asking people to give blood,” says Hugelshofer.

The event inspired 19 people to sign up to give blood, while another four registered to donate stem cells, which are used to treat more than 80 blood-borne diseases and cancers–including leukemia.

Those eager to help can join Team Lynn after creating an account on the blood services website. There, you can also find answers to common questions about donor eligibility and booking appointments.

Lynn is set to undergo her eleventh round of chemotherapy at the end of June, right ahead of her 65th birthday.

“She’s a tough chick, she’s doing great. Everyday is a new day—we’re taking it one day at a time,” says Tyler.

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