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.

Salsa for A Cure: Bringing the zest of dance and music to fundraising

To date, “Salsa For A Cure” has raised more than $28,000 for patient care service at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

When you think of salsa, it’s easy to envision the music, dancing, bright colors and energy. When you think about cancer, it likely brings up opposite emotions. But here in Buffalo, community members have found a way to use the vibrancy of salsa to make a difference in the lives of people living with cancer.

“Salsa for A Cure,” an amateur dance competition, took place on September 16, 2022 at Pucho’s Social Club. The event is a fundraiser for patient care services at Roswell Park.

“I figured, if I had an event that featured Spanish music, especially for Hispanic Heritage Month, we would get more people to learn and be more aware about the different cancers,” said Maritza Vega, “Salsa for A Cure” chairperson.

According to Maritza, one of the primary goals of the event is bringing joy to those who may be suffering due to cancer.

This is a photo of Maritza Vega, the Salsa for A Cure chairwoman
Picture shows four Salsa for a Cure judges standing beneath a Puerto Rican Hispanic Day parade flag. They are dressed in red on event day.

“Making people happy: It’s a way of wellness,” she explained. “I chose ‘Salsa for A Cure’ because I knew that people, when they came to this event, were going to be happy. They were going to be willing and ready to contribute.”

Dinorah E. Santos agrees. Dinorah is a past board member of the Hispanic Heritage Council and she currently handles public relations for the Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute.

“Come for the music. Come for the drinks. Come for the vibes and the energy,” Dinorah exclaimed while being interviewed at the event.

When asked about the significance of “Salsa for A Cure,” Dinorah said the amateur dance competition is a great symbol for Hispanic and Latino culture — and the diversity within those communities. “It just shows how this culture can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone, especially in a time where we just spent so much time behind closed doors in our homes away from others [due to the COVID-19 pandemic]. Here, everyone is just coming together and appreciating the culture.”

The fundraiser was put on in coordination with the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York, the Pucho Olivencia Center, the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade, Baila Salsa and many more community partners.

To date, “Salsa for A Cure” has raised more than $28,000 for patient care services at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; however, Maritza believes the event can make an even bigger impact! She hopes to see the fundraiser continue to grow for years to come.

We all have the tools to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients. For anyone looking to start their own fundraiser, Maritza offered, “It takes people to come together and make it happen.”

Salsa for a Cure Photo Gallery

Body image shows four people from Salsa for a Cure holding a check that's being donated to Roswell Park. All donations from the event benefit patient care programs.
This photo features a couple dancing at Salsa for A Cure
Picture shows four Salsa for a Cure judges standing beneath a Puerto Rican Hispanic Day parade flag. They are dressed in red on event day.
This photo features a couple dancing at Salsa for A Cure

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

What We Can Learn from Shooting For A Cure!

Imagine This

Picture a packed gym decorated with balloons and streamers — all pink. At center court, the Pembroke girls’ basketball team dons pink jerseys with a pink basketball in one player’s hand. The crowd is silent as a player shares the story of a loved one over the loudspeaker. When she’s done, she places a pink rose into a vase alongside other pink and white flowers, representing survivors and those lost to breast cancer.

At the end of the night, it’s not about who wins the game; it’s about an entire community coming together for a cause. And it’s been that way for eleven years.

“Our mission started off as a kind gesture in support of a community member as she battled breast cancer,” says Mike Wilson, a special education teacher and event organizer. “It was a pure act, done out of love. Eleven seasons later, we never could have imagined what this game would become.”  

Shooting For A Cure! started in 2011 after coach Ron Funke discovered his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. The girls’ basketball team wanted to show their support by hosting a game in her honor as she underwent treatment. Shooting For A Cure! has since raised more than $225,000 for breast cancer research and care at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.                                                              

“Our team, our school and our entire community is working toward finding a cure for cancer. We value service, and we will continue to do all we can in support of those in need,” Mike says.

The Secrets to Success: Sweat and Passion

The Secrets to Success: Sweat and Passion

When we asked Mike what it took to bring an event like Shooting For A Cure to life, his answer was simple: hard work. The planning process begins long before event day, and everyone (players, families and teachers) works together to promote the game. That includes collaborating with local media outlets, posting on social media and seeking donations from local area businesses.

Above all of that, though, Mike says that you can use passion to fuel your momentum. Lead with your heart, and people will respond.  

“If you have a passion to support those in need, let that guide your event. There are more compassionate and benevolent people in our community than you can imagine who will jump on board and support you.”

Mike also says that the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation really helps support his team through the planning process by providing tools and connections that make the event a success.

Bring It All Together

Bringing It All Together

There’s a lot to be learned from the success of Shooting For A Cure!, especially if you’re thinking about hosting your own Team Roswell event for the first time. Here are four tips you can take from Shooting For A Cure! when planning your fun.

1. Start early

Events can be time-consuming to plan, so give yourself plenty of time to get everything off the ground.

2. Make it a community affair

Planning is more fun with a team. Make sure to loop people in and ask for help from local businesses.

3. Use the resources available to you

Whether you need inspiration, guidance or planning tools, there is plenty of support available to you. Ask family, friends or the staff at the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

4. Get social

Use social media to promote your event, ask for donations and gather inspiration from other accounts. Follow Shooting For A Cure! on Twitter at @PemGBB_PinkGame to get started.

5. Lead with passion

If you have a serious passion for helping others, let that be your guide. People respond well to authenticity and are more likely to help if they know you’re excited about your event.

With these tips on your side, your event is sure to be a hit.

Questions? Reach out to Mary at Team Roswell at 716-845-4977 or teamroswell@roswellpark.org .