Your $1 donation turns into $23 in cancer research funding

There are many powerful ways to support Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s goal of freeing our world from the fear, pain and loss due to cancer. One of those ways is by participating in Team Roswell. The funds raised by Team Roswell participants and donors each year are put to work immediately, fueling cutting-edge cancer research and quality-of-life programs for cancer patients and their caregivers.

Roswell Park has the best and brightest researchers and doctors who have come from around the world to Buffalo, New York, to dedicate their life to studying and treating cancer. Donations to Roswell Park through Team Roswell enable breakthrough cancer discoveries and bring new treatments from the bench (lab) to the bedside (patients).

We’re proud to say that for every dollar donated to cancer research, Roswell Park is now able to leverage an additional $23 from external grants toward that research. This is thanks to the support of Team Roswell and the hard work of Roswell Park researchers.

Images shows researchers in a lab led by Dr. Mukherjee
Images shows researchers in a leukemia lab

How cancer research funding works

Cancer research requires a lot of work, resources and investment. With the great wealth of talent among Roswell Park’s researchers and scientists, there are a lot of promising ideas brewing. Many of these discoveries are only able to move forward with the support of donations.

Each year, Roswell Park scientists apply and compete for grants from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation through the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC process is led by Drs. Mukund Seshadri and Kirsten Moysich, who select an internal objective group of peers to sit on the committee based on expertise and areas of research. Reviewers are asked to thoroughly evaluate and consider the scientific promise of each application. The most promising grant applications are awarded with donor-raised funds to allow scientists to continue their cancer research.

This seed money is used for researchers to obtain primary research data and, in turn, apply for larger national grants. The initiatives that receive support often lead to long-term funding from national organizations and new treatments.

Impact of fundraising at Roswell Park

Since 2011, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, with funds from Team Roswell, has awarded over $16 million to researchers through the Scientific Advisory Committee through 245 grants to 146 scientists.

These grants have led to the publication of 167 papers, the start of at least 20 clinical trials based on homegrown science at Roswell Park and the investment of over $96 million in external grant funding.

That means that for every dollar donated to cancer research, Roswell Park receives an additional $23 in external funding for cancer research.

The dedication and commitment of riders, donors and volunteers is driving work in state-of-the-art labs that fuels discoveries that are changing the future of cancer.



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

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?

You choose your impact

“It's not just an event, it is a memory. It is a movement. You are bringing together a community to do something amazing and grand that's going to help people all throughout Western New York."

- Jessica Kardashian, event coordinator

When you sign up for Team Roswell, you’re making a world of difference in the fight to end cancer. You’re blazing a trail for a cause that means a lot to you, which means fundraising on your terms, in a way that works best for you and resonates most.

Abbie McNett brings the Victory Bell with teddy bear in hand.
Sadie Garner rings the Victory Bell at Roswell Park.

Here’s a closer look at how you can designate your fundraising dollars:

1. Most Pressing Needs

By supporting Roswell Park’s most pressing needs, your fundraising dollars will be used to accelerate promising clinical trials in immunotherapy and cellular therapy treatments, one of our highest and most urgent priorities. You can support the latest treatment options for our patients and help them maintain the best possible quality of life. When you commit to Roswell Park’s most pressing needs, you’re dedicating your efforts toward the work our experts know will make the biggest impact.

2. Courage of Carly Fund

Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease among children ages 1 to 14 in the United States, and only 4% of federal funding for cancer research goes toward understanding and fighting pediatric cancers. No child should have to experience a cancer or blood disorder diagnosis. With your help, they won’t be in this alone. You have the opportunity to support the Courage of Carly Fund, which gives every child facing cancer or a blood disorder at Roswell Park with compassionate care programs and the latest pediatric cancer research.

3. Breast Cancer Research

The support of generous donors like you allows us to stay on the cutting edge of breast cancer research and to provide compassionate care to all our patients. Your fundraising dollars will be used to launch investigations to unlock the secrets of breast cancer and accelerate promising clinical trials to bring about new treatments for breast cancer.

4. Lung Cancer Research

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, and many people do not have symptoms in its early stages. Here at Roswell Park, donations allow us to pursue and advance research to prevent, detect and treat all kinds of lung cancers. Together, we can bring the latest treatment options to our patients and help them maintain the best possible quality of life through their fight.

5. Colorectal Cancer Research

Colorectal cancers, cancers in the colon and rectum, are among the most common cancers in the nation. Treatment demands expert experience across specialties: surgical, medical and radiation oncology, gastroenterology, nutrition, rehabilitation and more.

6. The Angel Fund

There are times when patients and their families experience extraordinary financial challenges when diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment. The lack of financial resources to meet these challenges may prevent patients from receiving the treatment they require. Here at Roswell Park, donations allow us to help alleviate such challenges by assisting with these expenses through the Angel Fund.

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
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.

Riding for hope: How one woman turned loss into a lifelong mission

Shannon's story

Shannon Traphagen vividly remembers the day her husband Mike hopped on his bike and cycled 20 miles — just six weeks after having brain surgery. At his next radiation appointment, the entire staff at Roswell Park applauded his efforts and greeted him with high-fives. When Mike finished radiation and rang the bell marking his last treatment, his doctors and nurses rallied around him.

Though Mike succumbed to brain cancer after 14 months, Shannon will never forget the knowledge and compassion of the Roswell Park staff. They walked the couple through treatment options, let them know what to expect and brought in specialists when needed. To this day, Roswell Park continues to exceed Shannon’s expectations.  

“The staff and community at Roswell Park continue to rally around me as I grieve the loss of my husband. They hold me close and support me on my new journey. There is immense value and strength in that kind of support,” Shannon says.

A trail ride in Mike's honor

Shannon's bike ride luncheon
Shannon's bike ride

Last year, Shannon started the Traphagen’s Trail Ride 4 Brain Cancer in the Village of Hamburg to honor her husband’s legacy. The inaugural event offered a 5.5-mile and 10-mile bike route to riders and benefitted brain cancer research and treatment at Roswell Park. The event raised almost $11,000 in just six weeks.

Shannon relied on the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, sponsors, vendors and her staff to put the event together and hit her fundraising goal. The Alliance Foundation, through the Team Roswell program, helped her plan and create promotional materials while media coverage from WIVB Channel 4 helped her spread the word to recruit riders and encourage donations. 

Her advice to anyone looking to fundraise is this: Start early, plan in advance and be strategic.

“Create a Facebook events page, use LinkedIn and Instagram, make a personal video message letting people know why you are holding your event. These things will give you the best chance at hosting a great event!” she says.

Finding the light

Shannon's bike ride participants laughing

Shannon doesn’t plan to stop after the inaugural ride. After serving as a caregiver and experiencing such a difficult loss, she wants to help others who are walking a similar path. That involves raising funds and awareness for brain cancer to give others a better chance at beating the odds. It all comes down to inspiring hope.

“Hope is a powerful thing. Don’t ever lose it — even in your darkest days — because you never know where the light will come from and how it will shine down on you,” she says.

Learn more about how to start your own fundraising event