Cancer, community and football: How the Sanders family is making a difference

Football field

Meet Andre the Warrior.

When Andre Sanders, better known as Andre the Warrior, was diagnosed with cancer, the community rallied around him.

That was in the summer of 2019. Andre was four years old.

Alexandra “Alex” and Rich Sanders, Andre’s parents, had just relocated to Florida. Amidst the chaos of Hurricane Dorian, Andre came down with symptoms.

“We had taken him to the ER that first night. They told us it was probably a stomach virus, but he did not get better. So, we went back to another ER,” said Alex. “They thought it was appendicitis, and then they found the kidney tumor.”

Andre the Warrior

Andre was diagnosed with Stage IV Wilms tumor, which had metastasized to his lung.

Alex had previously worked as an oncology nurse at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and she knew there was nowhere else she wanted her son to be treated. So, they moved their family back to Buffalo to ensure Andre had access to the best care possible.

Andre underwent several rounds of radiation and nine months of chemotherapy before ringing the Victory Bell in May 2020.

Today, Andre is seven years old, a lover of all sports and – most importantly – cancer free. 

Reflecting on Andre’s journey.

“Our Buffalo community just wrapped their arms around us,” said Alex, while looking back on Andre’s cancer journey.

Friends, loved ones and even strangers stepped in to help cover the cost of Andre’s treatment, and that’s something Alex and Rich will never forget. 

“We reflected on all the help and all the monetary support we got from people when Andre’s chemotherapy and radiation was going on,” Rich remembered. “So, we looked around to see what our greatest need was during that situation, and it was finances.”

With a mission to serve other families like their own, Alex and Rich combined a passion and a need – bringing their idea of the 4 Quarter Fight to life.

4 Quarter Fight.

“I played football. The family loves football. Andre is obsessed with football. We figured why not do a football fundraiser in Buffalo where it’s a football town and everybody likes football,” said Rich. “So, we decided to do a flag football tournament.”

Alex and Rich partnered with local businesses and organizations that wanted to make a difference in the fight against childhood cancer. They encouraged businesses to sponsor teams and donate raffle items.

After months of planning, the first 4 Quarter Fight was held on September 24, 2022, at the North Amherst Recreation Center.

In addition to the eight teams in the tournament, there was a special game for Andre and his brother.

“That way we could have his friends and some of the kids whom he’s met along the way be involved and have their own little game,” said Rich.

In that first year, the event was a huge success — and next year, they want to make an even bigger impact.

Planning is already underway — especially for Andre!

“Every month, he tells me something that he wants to add to his event and have next year at his event,” Rich laughed.

Two kids high fiving on the field at 4 Quarter Fight
Teenage player at 4 Quarter Fight
Players at the 4 Quarter Fight
Player throwing the ball at the 4 Quarter Fight

Tips and Takeaways.

Organizing a new Team Roswell event takes time, dedication and creativity, but there is support each step of the way.

Alex and Rich say one of their main takeaways is to start earlier and delegate more. For 2023, they plan to form a committee to divvy up responsibilities.

For newcomers, they both suggest volunteering at existing events to get a feel for things in advance.

“Connect with the people who put events on and take notes of what they do and what is exciting to you, what catches your attention, and ask questions,” Rich added.

The Biggest Win.

While putting on the 4 Quarter Fight was no easy feat, the incredible reward is what makes Alex and Rich eager to grow the event year after year.  

“We had fellow friends from clinic come to the event and also families who have lost their angels. This is for them, and they are the why. I have specific memories of seeing those faces there and that’s what motivates me to do this,” said Alex.

Are you ready to make a difference, too?