Blue Line

‘An inspiration’: Hamilton cop honoured for volunteer work

June 13, 2023  By J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

June 13, 2023, Hamilton, Ont. – James Durka was by the side of his wife Jessica through six rounds of chemotherapy at Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton after she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2016.

Once her cancer was in remission, the two Norfolk County residents decided to give back, hosting an annual pumpkin patch fundraiser in Waterford, raising $245,000 over five years for Juravinski. And the couple runs South Coast Community Caring for Cancer, an all-volunteer group that delivers care packages to cancer patients and their caregivers.

For his role in that work, Durka, a detective with Hamilton Police Service, is being honoured.

This month, the Police Association of Ontario announced Durka as the recipient of its 2023 Community Role Model Award, which recognizes “a police officer or civilian police service employee who has made a difference in their community while off-duty.”


“I’m very proud of it,” Durka said of being chosen from more than 240 nominations provincewide. “It’s very nice to be recognized, and it’s very humbling at the same time.”

The veteran officer said he was surprised and “a bit nervous” when he got the news he would be honoured at an awards ceremony.

“I don’t like the spotlight,” Durka said. “What we’ve been doing, we haven’t been looking for accolades. We’ve been looking to give back to the hospital and the community because of the great care Jessica had.”

Jessica Durka said her “very humble” husband “just does things from his heart.”

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “He’s oftentimes in the background and does things quietly. So to receive this award is a nice feather in his cap.”

James Durka said his specialty is “doing the heavy lifting,” whether that’s delivering care bags to cancer patients in Haldimand-Norfolk, Brantford and Hamilton, or recruiting fellow officers to haul pumpkins to the farm market.

When Durka heard of a little boy undergoing treatment at McMaster Children’s Hospital who one day wants to be a police officer in the canine unit, he and his colleagues collected some HPS swag – including a German shepherd stuffed animal – and paid the youngster a visit.

“It’s good to see a smile,” Durka said. “It’s a way of showing that there’s people thinking about them.”

Volunteering has helped the normally “reserved” detective open up about his own journey as a caregiver.

“I’m looking to support people who are going through the same process, and let them know that I’m there for them,” Durka said.

“And if there’s anything I can do to help them, I’ll help them.”

Durka is the second Hamilton police officer to win the award in as many years.

Sgt. Brad Adams was honoured last year for riding over 200 kilometres on horseback through Haldimand-Norfolk to raise money for cancer research and encourage stem cell registration and blood donations in honour of his wife, Shannon, a nurse at Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe who died of plasma cell leukemia in January 2022.

“Families across the community are so appreciative of the support James provides for patients of all ages during difficult times,” the Police Association of Ontario said in a statement announcing Durka’s award.

“For many in the policing community, James serves as an inspiration and role model.”

– The Hamilton Spectator

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