Friends of Carly’s White Party to celebrate 10th anniversary

“You just dance the night away and know you're doing it for good.”

That’s how White Party co-founder Chrissy Jacobi describes the unforgettable Buffalo event. The White Party is an annual celebration that takes place every summer where guests dress in — you guessed it — all white! Proceeds from the party benefit Roswell Park’s Courage of Carly Fund, which fuels pediatric cancer research and provides quality-of-life programs to help brave kids fighting cancer and blood disorders.

“We really try to keep it high energy and fun. We want people to come back the next year and do it all over again and raise that money all over again. So that’s been our goal since day one,” said Chrissy.

That ‘day one’ was back in 2012 — and the first event looked a little different than it does today.

Looking back.

Guests at the 2022 White Party
Guests enjoying the silent auction at the 2022 White Party

The White Party started as an idea between Chrissy and her longtime friend John Ticco. At the time, they were two young professionals looking for a way to give back.

Carly Collard Cottone, who inspired the Courage of Carly Fund, was one of John’s close family friends. Learn more about Carly’s story here.

“Looking back to that first event, a gift-gathering party, John kind of did it on a whim. He threw it together in about three weeks and gathered some gifts for the kids. It probably raised around $2,500. It’s definitely not an easy thing to do,” Chrissy explained. “But throughout the years we’ve got it to a well-oiled machine. I have a great team that helps me, and we were able to build it to what it is today.”

10 years of giving back.

Today, the event has grown into a summer highlight in Buffalo, bringing in celebrities like former NFL superstars Rob Gronkowski and Fred Jackson, and reality TV personality Jason Tartick. Most importantly, the White Party continues to raise critically needed funds — $70,000 in 2022 alone — for the Courage of Carly Fund

Chrissy says in the time she’s been running this event, the cause has become very personal for her.

“I’ve met so many different people and families going through this, and it just it breaks my heart. I want to do whatever I can do to help and support them.”

With summer 2023 comes a major milestone for the White Party.

“This year is going to be a big one,” Chrissy explained. “It’s year 10. We’re going to try to make this the biggest, best White Party that we’ve had yet!”

Band performing at the White Party
Basket raffle items at the White Party
People dancing at the White Party

Getting involved.

Prior to starting her own fundraiser, Chrissy volunteered at existing Roswell Park events to get an idea of what running one would entail.

“That’s really how I got involved, and then I became so passionate about it. I wanted to do it on my own.”

She also stressed the importance of starting small, and not being afraid to get your toes wet. Everyone starts somewhere, and growth happens over time.

While throwing the White Party, or any Team Roswell event, is not a small feat, Chrissy says the most rewarding part is seeing where the funds go and how their efforts are helping kids and families during what could be the toughest time in their lives. She says if you’re dedicated and passionate about what you’re doing, you too can make a real difference.

Group photo at the White Party in 2022.

Committed to Making a Difference: Check out The 11 Day Power Play

A Call to Action

For the Lesakowski family, a battle with cancer turned into a call to action. That call to action turned into The 11 Day Power Play, Team Roswell’s largest community fundraiser.

The 11 Day Power Play, Inc. was founded by Mike and Amy Lesakowski in 2016. Eight years earlier, Amy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

“I was 35 when I was diagnosed, and we had three small children all under the age of 10,” said Amy. “Obviously it’s a shock for anyone who gets diagnosed … we were fortunate enough to know to come to Roswell Park because it’s the best place you can get treatment.”

Amy participated in a three-year clinical trial through Roswell and has been in remission ever since. “I did everything that Roswell suggested, and I’m happy to still be here,” she explained.

While Amy survived her cancer diagnosis, Mike’s mother was not as fortunate. She passed away after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013. Through their grief and mourning, they found a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to serve and support other families on their cancer journeys.

The 11 Day Power Play Is Born

This photo shows hockey players sitting on the bench at The 11 Day Power Play
This photo shows two hockey players hugging at The 11 Day Power Play

Mike and Amy came up with the idea for The 11 Day Power Play based on their personal connection to Roswell Park and their love of hockey. The event, which took place for the first time on June 22 – July 2, 2017, aimed to set the world record for the longest continuous hockey game. Forty men lived onsite and played hockey nonstop for 11 days. That first fundraiser alone raised more than $1 million for Roswell Park.

Mike and Amy also know that while not every hockey player has the availability and resources to devote 11 days to the Power Play, many still want to be a part of the movement. Thus, the 11 Day Power Play Community Shift was created. The Community Shift event, which typically takes place in the summer, allows more people to get involved. Rather than committing to the entire 11 days, these participants can sign up to take three-hour shifts throughout the duration of the fundraiser. For these events, hundreds of players can be a part of the game – each with a $225 fundraising requirement. 

“Not only do we raise money for research, but we also want to raise awareness,” Amy emphasized.

More than 300 volunteers come out to support the Community Shift event every year. For Amy, the energy is unbeatable. “I always say everyone needs to experience the love at the rink,” she explained.

And the love off the rink, reflective in the funds raised to help the community, is evident as well. “The fact that our players are able to do what they do with their fundraising is just incredible,” said Amy.

Over the years, the event has continued to grow. To this day, more than $8.4 million has been raised by The 11 Day Power Play organization.

“Anything's possible. That's always our motto.”

This is a group photo from The 11 Day Power Play in November, 2021.

You, too, can make a difference in the lives of cancer patients. Whether you’ve been personally affected by cancer or know someone who has, we’re all in this together.

Team Roswell encompasses fundraisers of all sizes – and sometimes the best way to get your idea off the ground is starting small and setting achievable goals.

Amy encourages people who are interested in getting involved to try something new and not be afraid. She added, “Anything’s possible. That’s always our motto.”

Start your own Team Roswell fundraiser today or learn more about The 11 Day Power Play.

Event coordinators reflect on 17 years of Saddle Up for Roswell

Celebrating 17 Years

Oftentimes, the best fundraisers are born from the marriage of two concepts — a passion and a need. The success of Saddle Up for Roswell is the perfect example of that.

The 17th Annual Saddle Up for Roswell was held on September 17, 2022, at the Chestnut Ridge Equestrian Center. Over the years, the event has raised nearly $250,000 for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The original motivation was because Sue Williams’ husband, Terry, was diagnosed with cancer and he was getting treatment and my father worked for Roswell Park in the cancer research lab,” said event coordinator Megan Gamin. “We just thought it was a perfect partnership to raise money for Roswell, and it’s such a wonderful cause.”

Sue and Terry Williams were both avid riders and deeply involved in the world of breeding and training horses. In fact, in 1984, their horse Abdullah competed at the Los Angeles Olympics, winning a gold and silver medal in show jumping.

Carrying on Terry's Vision

This is a photo of an award case from Sue and Terry's late horse, Abdullah
This is a photo of Sue Williams, one of the Saddle Up for Roswell founders

At this year’s event, Sue reflected on how the idea for Saddle Up for Roswell came to be. “My husband was being treated for colon cancer at Roswell. And I can distinctly remember sitting at a horse show in Erie, Pennsylvania, and just brainstorming and thinking, ‘Why don’t we see what we can do?’ and ‘Let’s make the horse trials into a fundraiser!’”

In the beginning, they could’ve only dreamed of the event’s success in the 17 years that would follow.

“Our goal is always to beat the year before,” said Megan. “There are 125 riders, and they bring in thousands of dollars. It’s a devoted group.” The event also raises money through T-shirt sales, sponsors and a basket raffle.

While Terry passed away in 2007, Sue and Megan have continued to host and grow the fundraiser in his honor.

Sue added, “I will be 80 years old this year, and I hope it carries on for a long time. I don’t see an end in sight.”

Looking to Start Your Own Event?

This photo shows a woman and a young girl at Saddle Up for Roswell. The girl is sitting on the horse, preparing to compete in the event.

For anyone looking to start a fundraiser for Roswell Park, Megan said, “If they can do it, please do it.” She also offered this advice: “Be ahead of the schedule, set a timeline, have meetings and get your core people to back you up.”

Though it can be a commitment to get an event like this off the ground, both Megan and Sue believe the reward of helping those living with cancer is well worth it every time.