Award: Community Role Model
Service: Hamilton Police Service
James Durka has been a police officer with the Hamilton Police Service for 20 years. He is a role model in this community both on and off duty. Six years ago, James’ wife, Jessica, was diagnosed with cancer. He took care of his wife until recovery while continuing to perform his duty as a detective for the Hamilton Police Service.
When Jessica’s cancer was in remission, the couple decided to pay it forward by growing pumpkins at her family farm in Waterford and selling them at a roadside market they titled the Juravinski Cancer Centre Pumpkin Patch. For the last five years, James has spent countless hours on this project and recruits fellow police officers on their days off to assist with the annual pumpkin picking. Together James and Jessica have raised $245,000 for the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton.
During that same period, Jessica created a community group called, South Coast Community Caring for Cancer. Together, they send cancer care bags out into the community for cancer patients and their caregivers. Additionally, James supports Jessica by picking up donations and delivering cancer care bags to those who need them across the community, including children at McMaster Children’s Hospital.
While working with the patient community, James learned that it was a child’s wish to become a police officer. In response, he organized a team of police officers to meet this child and support their dreams.
Families across the community are so appreciative of the support James provides for patients of all ages during difficult times. For many in the policing community, James serves as an inspiration and role model.