Raising the roof for cancer research

June 11, 2024

Morello’s Your Independent Grocer store owners David and Kimberley Morello smiling proudly alongside Ted Dawes after this year’s Ted on the Roof fundraiser in support of leukemia and lymphoma research.

If you asked David Morello what he envisioned for the future of his Your Independent Grocer® (YIG) location in Peterborough, Ont. when he became store owner with his wife in 2000, you can bet that it wouldn’t have involved a member of the local community camping out on the store rooftop annually, for 96 hours, for 20 years. 

As a longstanding contributor towards local, charitable organizations, David knew that he wanted this to be the forefront of their store. Shortly after taking ownership, they established a ‘community action team’ with store staff. “As a business owner, I believe that I have a responsibility to support and give back to my community,” says David. “That’s what it’s all about. Our team delivering quality experiences for our customers, both inside and outside of the store.”   

Having been heavily involved with the President’s Choice Children’s Charity, David wanted to continue supporting locally, but in a way that hadn’t been done before. He wanted something unique and exclusive to establish the ‘Morello’ identity. 

A conversation with David’s business agent brought him an opportunity to partner with a local member of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW Canada) and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC).  

Cue Ted Dawes – an employee of Minute Maid Company Canada Inc., in Peterborough. UFCW Canada and Minute Maid discussed creating an annual event with Ted to support the cause; however, the Minute Maid facility couldn’t accommodate the execution they were looking for. That’s when David raised his hand and suggested hosting it at his store. “I started having meetings with Ted and the union representative about how we could do something different,” says David. “Something untraditional that if managed correctly, could be a long-term success.”   

That’s when the idea of ‘Ted on the Roof’ was born. It was decided that Ted would spend his entire Victoria Day long weekend on the rooftop of Morello’s YIG, in support of leukemia and lymphoma research.   

What does that entail exactly? Well, on the Thursday leading into what is commonly known as May 2-4, Ted is brought up to the roof of the grocery store and does not come back down until that Sunday…for anything. Don’t worry; this is completely safe, as Ted is equipped with everything he needs for the weekend. Beverages, food, sleeping arrangements and washroom facilities. He even has a lawn chair to relax in. Paramedics are also on-site to check on Ted each day. It’s basically like camping, but instead of being on the ground in a park, he’s on a rooftop in a parking lot.  

What began as a barbecue outside of the store watching the ‘raising of Ted’, has evolved into a family-fun community event. Morello’s offers all the things – burgers, donuts, ice cream, live entertainment and silent auctions. They even have local news stations filming their live broadcasts from the rooftop with Ted. “The weekend is action packed,” says David. “This doesn’t happen at other grocery stores, so it truly is an experience.” 

To date, this annual event has raised nearly $450,000 in proceeds going directly towards cancer research, with a total of $31,000 this year. 

Although this was the final year for the event, it is a 20-year success that David will always hold close to his heart. Not only did this long-time partnership put Morello’s on the map, it also represented so much more.  

‘It’s sad to see this chapter come to an end, but we will continue to be a pillar for our community in any way we can” says David. “While I don’t know what’s next, I can definitely tell you that something is coming.”