Summer Splash: A decade of making a difference for cancer patients

2023 Summer Splash

Summer Splash: A decade of making a difference for cancer patients

There’s nothing like a Buffalo summer — and one of the season’s highlights is Summer Splash, a waterfront cocktail party that benefits the Courage of Carly Fund. 2023 marked the event’s 10-year anniversary.

As event coordinator Shannon Tedesco plans for the 2024 Summer Splash, she is aiming high with a goal of raising $100,000. It’s a milestone she could have only dreamed of a decade prior.

What is Summer Splash?

“We always describe it as a wedding without a bride and groom, because from the second you walk in, it’s a celebration,” said Shannon. “There’s excitement in the air. Everybody is dressed to the theme. You’re usually greeted with a little glass of champagne. It’s very bright and fun and easy. You come in, you eat, you drink, you dance.”

The idea for Summer Splash came about more than a decade ago, when Shannon, along with other volunteers and key stakeholders, sought out ways to reach a new audience.

“We wanted to figure out a way to get younger people involved, the 25 to 35 age range, and make Courage of Carly (then known as Carly’s Club) their charity of choice.”

At the time, Summer Splash served in some ways as an addition to the existing Carly’s Crossing event, but over the years, it has grown into its own standalone fundraiser.

“It’s evolved with us, but it’s stayed so true to itself and its original cause — to bring people in, have a great night on the water and do it for the kids.”

Summer Splash 2018

Meet the Event Chair

Shannon first got involved with the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation 15 years ago, when she joined the team as an intern.

“That’s when I met Jennifer Hickok, [Director, Corporate Partnerships & Board Relations,] and I moved on from interning, but she didn’t let me move on from Roswell Park,” Shannon laughed. “I stayed in close contact with her, and I had been doing things like helping out with the holiday party and with Courage of Carly. I saw how much of an impact it was having on the kids throughout the community.”

Shannon was hooked and motivated by the mission. She explained, “It became part of my heart, and I couldn’t let it go.” Shannon later became a member of the Roswell Park Alliance Community Board and now serves as the chair of Summer Splash.

Although it’s a one-night event, work for Shannon and her committee is nearly year-round.

“We have a big committee of people who are just as dedicated as I am, so we always have a big celebration after the event. We reflect on what we did, and it’s always like, how can we do more? How can we do better? We start planning almost immediately after the event closes.”

Shannon says what keeps her motivated is knowing they’re working toward finding cures and making lives better for kids affected by cancer and their families.

“Seeing that you helped to make a kid’s day or watching the relief on a mom or dad’s face knowing that they are going to have a little bit of support, that’s all I really need to keep me going.”

Summer Splash 2018

How to Get Involved

Shannon says Summer Splash is always in need of more volunteers. First and foremost, however, they want you to come and experience the event.

If you’re interested in starting your own Courage of Carly event, Shannon offered this advice:

“My advice is to just get started. Even if it’s a couple hundred dollars, it still makes a huge impact.”

Shannon is not only proud of the success and growth of Summer Splash, but she’s also proud of how the dollars they raise are put to work right away to serve people affected by cancer in our community.

“With Courage of Carly, the impact goes far beyond the medicine. The reason that I do this is to make a difference in a kid’s life and to have them experience joys that they maybe aren’t experiencing because of the disease. So, creating memories for them and for their family, that’s the reason that I do this.”

Simon Bennett pairs love of golf with the cancer cause

100 Holes Golfer

Simon Bennett pairs love of golf with the cancer cause

“I always say it’s my favorite day of the year, and I mean it.”

100 Holes of Golf at Wanakah Country Club exemplifies the power of using your passions to make a difference. Event founder Simon Bennett held the first 100 Holes of Golf fundraiser in 2016, alongside Sean Lindstrom and Max Davis, tying their love for the sport with the cancer cause. The event has grown organically year over year and has become a summer staple for golfers here in Western New York.

The Inspiration

In 100 Holes of Golf, participants start at around 5:20 a.m. and finish at approximately 9:00 p.m. For all 100 holes, they walk each step of the way.

The inspiration for the event was born back in 1995.

“When I was a teenager in the United Kingdom, I was 16, and a friend of mine and I did a similar thing at our golf club at home. I just remember having such a great day.”

So, two decades later, Simon wanted to experience another all-day golf event, now as an adult in Buffalo. That first year, there were three participants, all members of Wanakah Country Club, and they decided to raise money while taking part in their sun-up to sun-down day on the course.

“With Roswell Park being such a big part of the Buffalo community and so many people we know who are either a patient there or know somebody who’s been a patient there, starting a golf fundraiser was a reasonably easy choice to make.”

Child in golf cart at 100 Holes of Golf

Designating Funds

In 2016, 100 Holes of Golf raised around $7,500. The fundraising doubled in 2017, then again in 2018. By 2019, Simon and his team inquired about designating funds to one particular initiative at Roswell Park — the Courage of Carly Fund. That year, they raised just shy of $50,000, which covered the cost of the Courage of Carly holiday party.

“We thought with this amount of money, we can make a very specific difference. Even if it’s for two or three hours for a party or to take kids to a Sabres game or to whatever it is, you know that you’re making somebody have some enjoyment who’s going through a horrible time,” said Simon. “We’ve gotten to know Mr. and Mrs. Collard, Carly’s parents. We loved meeting them and the way they speak about not only their daughter, but the things that Courage of Carly has done over the last 20 years since Carly passed.”

Expanding Their Impact

In 2020, tragedy struck among the Wanakah Country Club Community. Luca Calanni, the son of one of the members, passed away unexpectedly due to complications of the flu. Luca was only 11 years old. Not long after, his family created a foundation in his name, Live Like Luca. His father, Roger “Bodge” Calanni, was planning on participating in 100 Holes of Golf that year, so Simon and his team decided to add Live Like Luca as a beneficiary of the funds raised.

“The two foundations go nicely hand-in-hand because they’re both raising money for children,” said Simon.

Kids doing sparklers at 100 Holes of Golf
Group photo of golfers at 100 Holes of Golf.

Team Effort

By 2023, 100 Holes of Golf had grown into a fundraising powerhouse, collecting nearly $190,000 that year alone. Participants included 28 golfers and three relay teams.

Simon stressed making this event possible is truly a team effort.

 

“This is such an event where everybody just wants everybody to play well and everybody to have a good time. It’s not just the 28 golfers; it’s the caddies, the people who provide food to us throughout the day, the people who run the raffle and the auction in the evening. It’s people dancing and setting up bounce houses for members’ children, plus the guests that we have from Courage of Carly.”

Personal Tie to the Cause

For several years, Simon has been an advocate for Roswell Park, raising funds to help give children with cancer the fighting chance they deserve. However, in 2023, he experienced Roswell Park in a different way – this time, as a patient. His cancer was caught through a colonoscopy in early March.

“Luckily, I didn’t really need much treatment other than a little bit of surgery. But it’s not only doing the treatment itself. It’s the way Roswell Park eased my worries and my family’s worries as quickly as possible.”

By April, he was already cancer-free. His surgery and recovery served as a reminder of how important programs like Courage of Carly are for children diagnosed with cancer.

Golfers and their children at 100 Holes of Golf
Kid celebrating at 100 Holes of Golf

Want to start your own fundraiser? Here’s Simon’s Advice.

“Make sure the thing that you’re doing, your event, is something you really enjoy doing and really want to do anyway.”

He says on top of knowing the incredible impact they’re making, he genuinely looks forward to 100 Holes of Golf year-round. So, while putting on this event takes a lot of work, the excitement and the cause keep him motivated.

“Not only are we doing a really great thing here for two great foundations, but it’s such a fun day.”

So, what’s next for 100 Holes of Golf? Simon wants to keep the event going for many years to come.

“It’s something that certainly I’m very proud of and everybody who does it is very proud of,” said Simon. “At some point, we’ll tick past the million-dollar mark. That will be a pretty nice milestone when that happens.”