Pediatric leukemia patient Colt finds his strength

Pediatric patient Colt, age 11, smiles at the camera.
Pediatric patient Colt, age 11, stands with his IV stand and gives a thumbs up to the camera.

Colt finds his strength.

Colt Matz has been a competitive swimmer in Portville, New York, near the Pennsylvania border since he was 5 years old. It’s his all-time favorite sport. But in early May 2021, Colt found out he had leukemia. That put swimming on hold. It all started when he felt unwell during swim practice.

“I felt like I was going to pass out during warm ups, and I had to tell my coach,” the now 11-year-old said. A visit to the hospital in nearby Olean, New York, that same weekend revealed a terrifying truth.

“That afternoon, I heard the phrase no parent and no person should ever have to hear: your son has leukemia,” said Colt’s dad, Mike. An hour after the diagnosis, Colt and his mom, Christina, were airlifted to Buffalo to begin his care at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

After months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant —for which Colt’s younger brother, Jack, ended up being a perfect match — this brave pediatric leukemia patient was ready to go home.

Pediatric patient Colt, age 11, smiles as he stands behind his parents, who are seated. Colt's arms are around his parents' shoulders.

Finding his courage with leukemia.

“This experience has been challenging, especially because everything happened so fast and it was really scary,” Colt said. “I didn’t understand what was really going on, but my doctors, nurses, programs and my parents helped me feel more comfortable each day.”

During his months of treatment in Buffalo, Colt said he spent his time learning to play the ukulele, trying video games and doing lots of crafts. Best of all, he said he discovered he was stronger and braver than he ever knew he could be.

Pediatric patient Colt, age 11, pours paint onto a canvas in his hospital room. He wears a mask and hospital gown.
Pediatric patient Colt, age 11, lies in his hospital bed and holds the hand of his younger brother who stands beside the bed.olt's arms are around his parents' shoulders.

Choosing Roswell Park as a pediatric leukemia patient.

“My experience at Roswell Park has been the best,” Colt said. “It is like one big family that I am now a part of. Everyone I meet always is helpful, kind and smiling. I know when I walk into clinic I am going to get the best care. And if I am nervous someone is always there to help me.”

For Christina and Mike, the choice to bring their son to Roswell Park was simple.

“When you have a world-class treatment center in your backyard, there is no other answer,” Mike said. “The facilities, the people and the environment are so positive. We couldn’t ask to be in a better spot for Colt’s care.”

“Our experience at Roswell Park has been nothing short of incredible. I dare anyone to find a more highly qualified medical team anywhere. But at Roswell Park, they don’t just treat the disease, they treat the whole person.”

The Matz family, like many others, has benefitted from emotional support, child life specialists, music and arts programs and visits from their favorite therapy dogs at Roswell Park. Many of those roles and programs are fueled by the generosity of donors.

Pediatric patient Colt, age 11, is embraced by his parents, one on either side of him.

You can make a difference for pediatric patients.

“I am so thankful for Courage of Carly,” Colt said. “They have done so many amazing things for me, my family and so many other kids like me.”

“To the many donors to Roswell Park, we want to say thank you,” Mike and Christina said. “The work you enable Roswell Park to do literally saves and changes lives. Every dollar you are able to contribute means more trips to get ice cream, more times at the park and more LIFE. Without generous donors like you, how many children and adults would not be able to enjoy all that life has to offer, big and small. What greater opportunity is there to help people than that?”

Support cancer patients like Jack with Walgreens

Support cancer patients like Jack with Walgreens.

Bald toddler pediatric patient in a bright red shirt smiles as his mom smiles and has her arms around him.

This summer, Western New Yorkers can support cancer patients with Walgreens. When you donate to the Courage of Carly Fund at checkout June 12-25, you’re helping to change the lives of kids with cancer.

Jack Kaplewicz is happy 1-year-old boy from Eden, New York. He loves a couple things most of all: football and food. Play the “Shout” song and this little guy will dance to it on repeat. He’s a Buffalo-area kiddo, after all. Jack has a big sister and a little brother on the way.

Jack's diagnosis.

But Jack was a very different boy only months ago. He was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumors, a rare type of kidney cancer. Jack’s parents, Amy and Jason, learned about his diagnosis in October 2021 when Jack was only 10 months old. 

After months of care and chemotherapy at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Jack was ready for surgery. He saw a surgeon out of town in late January 2022 who removed a nearly 3.5 lb. tumor from his right kidney.

“Since his surgery, he has been a different kid,” Amy said. He went from a lethargic little guy to a toddler on the move. Now, she says, he doesn’t even realize he’s sick. He enjoys his regular visits to Roswell Park for continued chemotherapy. Those visits mean snacks, playtime and getting to see the staff members he loves.

Bald toddler pediatric cancer patient in a bright red shirt smiles as he presses his hand and face against a window. In his other hand, he holds his blanket.

Hope when life is upside down.

“Having a kid with cancer, your whole world is turned upside down,” Amy said. “Normalcy isn’t there, you’re worried your kid isn’t going to make it.” Jack will continue treatment at Roswell Park for now. The goal is to remove the remainder of the cancer on Jack’s left kidney. 

There’s still more ahead in Jack’s cancer journey for the Kaplewicz family, but they’re hopeful. Since his cancer is rare, Jack is part of a number of studies to help doctors learn more about his disease.

“But there’s research being done and there’s funding for it. We’re so appreciative that people give,” Amy said. “They don’t know us; they don’t have to choose to donate. And they don’t know how much their generosity impacts us.”

Your impact at Walgreens.

You’ll see photos of Jack in many WNY Walgreens locations this summer. When you donate at checkout, you’re helping patients like Jack whose families turn to Roswell Park for care.

Throughout this partnership with Walgreens, 100% of customer donations will benefit pediatric programs at Roswell Park.

Head to your local Walgreens June 12-25 to make your life-changing gift to support cancer patients at checkout! Find a Walgreens near you.

Deep South Taco: More than a Partnership

Deep South Taco: More than a Partnership.

For Deep South Taco owner Chef Richard Hamilton, supporting Roswell Park was more than a business decision, it was personal. 

Richard’s son, Christian, started his battle with cancer in 2019 when he was 19 years old. A college athlete at the time, Christian took excellent care of his health. 

“To get sick when you’re just the epitome of health… it just came out of nowhere,” Richard said. They don’t have a strong family history of cancer, so the news was beyond unexpected. Christian battled, testicular cancer, lymphedema and further cancer in his kidneys, liver. After initial chemotherapy and surgery, doctors also found cysts on his brain. 

“When my son first got sick, I called around to several top hospitals because I wanted to make sure he had the best of the best,” Richard said, remembering the shock of his son’s initial diagnosis. “Through meeting with the doctors at Roswell Park and discussing the different options for treatment, I was more comfortable with him there than any other hospital. On top of that, I can see Roswell Park from the roof of my restaurant. They’re in my backyard.”

Christian is 22 years old now and through that part of his cancer story. Now, the Hamilton family is focused on giving back. After Christian’s experience at Roswell Park, the family decided they wanted to do everything in their power to support programs that could continue to grow and help more kids and young adults. 

“My son is alive. My son is going to be healthy and he’s going to fight another day. I’ve got to make sure I do the same so another kid has this opportunity.” 

 

Giving Back

“This company is 100% of who we are and what we do,” Richard said of Deep South Taco. “We’ve lived in Buffalo now for 10 years and I’ve owned Deep South Taco for almost eight of them. We felt like the city had done enough for us.”

So it was decided. In 2020, in the midst of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Richard said he was going to “put my money where my mouth is” and use Deep South Taco’s biggest event of the year to make a difference in the lives of the kids at Roswell Park and their families.

“Cancer doesn’t stop for a pandemic. There’s no question that we had to do it,” he said. “I can’t make a kid wait; there’s always going to be something in the way. We’re still here working, still here fighting. My son was fighting, other kids are fighting and I’m not going to quit.”

 

Cinco de Mayo 2022

Now, for the second year in a row, the proceeds from the Deep South Taco Cinco de Mayo Street Festival on Thursday, May 5, 2022 at will be donated to the Courage of Carly Fund to support kids and young adults with cancer.

The Ellicott Street event will boast fun and refreshing food and beverages, incredible live music, VIP rooftop lounges and more. And every penny spent will support pediatric and young adult cancer patients.

“This is going to be so much fun. And it’s such an easy thing,” Richard said. “If people are going to celebrate anyway, why not come and buy a margarita here? We’re just going to give that money right to Roswell Park. They can help without even knowing they’re helping. Just by being here, they’re helping the kids at Roswell Park.”

And Deep South Taco won’t be stopping there. Richard said he and some other business friends of his are excited to continue their support of Roswell Park and the Courage of Carly Fund this summer and into the future.

If you want to keep up with Deep South Taco and keep an eye out for more chances to help patients at Roswell Park through their generous support, follow them on social media!