33 ways Courage of Carly helps kids with cancer and blood disorders

33 ways Courage of Carly helps kids with cancer and blood disorders.

When little Carly Collard Cottone founded the Courage of Carly Fund (called Carly’s Club then), she knew she was going to help kids just like her. That was her mission, and that continued to be her legacy even after her passing. You can read more about Carly’s story here.

Carly would have celebrated her 33rd birthday this year on March 5. In her honor, we want to highlight 33 ways the Courage of Carly Fund is able to help kids with cancer and blood disorders.

Happy birthday, Carly!

Diversionary Programs.

1. Caregiver and parent events – The caregivers and parents of our pediatric patients give their child their all. It’s only right that we take the time to lift them up, take them out and remind them they’re special.

2. Teen programming – Teen years hold so much already without the addition of cancer or a blood disorder. Our teens deserve dedicated, age-appropriate nurturing and fun through programs and events to help them feel themselves.

3. Programs for the whole family – A cancer or blood disorder diagnosis doesn’t just affect one person, it can affect the whole family. So we work hard to make space for families to spend time all together (and with other families experiencing similar things!) and make memories that will last a lifetime.

4. Wellness events – Sometimes, in the midst of appointments, treatments, stressful checkups and scans, our members need to recenter. We work to hold events like Roswell Strong (hoping to come back soon post-pandemic!) to provide opportunities for yoga, sound healing and other mind-body programs.

5. Sibling appreciation celebrations – We LOVE our Super Sibs. Siblings are like no other friends in the world. So we take special time out every year to make sure they know how much they are loved and appreciated by our patients.

6. Group tickets to special events – When your family is concerned about health and safety, it’s sometimes tough to get out into the community for some fun. Luckily, Courage of Carly is able to send some of our patients to fun sports games, concerts and other events in Western New York.

7. Buffalo Sabres annual holiday visit – Our friends, the Buffalo Sabres, are always up for a big day of fun around the winter holidays! Games, activities, autographs and goofing around are always sure to be on the agenda. What a fun way to celebrate winter in Buffalo!

Child Life Programs.

8. Beads of Courage – Every child’s story is unique and beautiful, just like they are. Through Beads of Courage, our patients can tell their story in an equally unique and beautiful way. Each bead represents a different thing they’ve gone through in their journey with cancer.

9. Stress balls and fidget toys – There can be a lot of nervous energy in a hospital. Sometimes a kid or caregiver needs something to keep their hands or their mind occupied while they wait.

10. Gabe’s Chemo Duck – Let’s be honest, chemotherapy can be really scary, too. With Chemo Duck, a cuddly pal to come along for treatment, it can be a little less scary. Chemo Duck wears scrubs and helps young patients get more comfortable with getting the care they need.

11. ACCO Medical Play Kits – Learning about tools at the doctor’s office can make visits less overwhelming. These play kits help our patients understand what to expect when they need care.

12. Pill Swallowing Kits – Swallowing pills can be tricky, especially for kids. These kits help kids learn how to take their oral medicine using little candies as practice.

13. Port Care – Some of our Courage of Carly members have ports, and those require special care. We’re able to provide port shirts that have strategic zippers to allow port access without leaving a kid too chilly. We’re also happy to have special adhesive remover for families to keep everything nice and clean and comfy.

14. Books – There’s a lot to learn and a lot to unpack when a child is battle cancer or a blood disorder. Our team has a collection of books approved by our experts to help with disease education and coping with the realities of living with cancer.

15. Buzzy Bees – It doesn’t matter how big and brave you are, needles can be scary. Thankfully, Courage of Carly has Buzzy Bees to help out. These little vibrating bees with icepack wings help our kiddos sit really bravely for their shots.

Sickle Cell Disease Programs.

16. Sickle Cell Disease Graduation – Sickle Cell Disease is a lifelong illness. Moving up from pediatric care to adult care is a huge step for our Courage of Carly members. We want to be with them every step of the way, including a celebratory graduation bell ringing!

17. Newborn Coping Kits – When your newborn baby is sick, baby and parents all need some support. These kits have a little stuffie and board books for our littlest patients and a thermometer, journal and various awareness items for their caregivers.

18. Thermometers and Pill Containers – Sometimes the little things, the necessities we might take for granted are the more important. We have thermometers and pill containers on hand for our members who need them.

Clinic and Patient Experience.

19. Playroom – Our patients have a chance to enjoy themselves a bit in the playroom while they’re here. There, they can do crafts, play with toys or video games or watch something on Disney+.

20. Art – Creativity can be so healing for people of all ages. Opportunities to make art solo or with others is a great way to express yourself and process what you’re thinking and feeling. We’re so lucky that our art program is sponsored by Ride for Roswell Team Kids Just Want to Have Fun.

21. Snacks – Who doesn’t love snacks?! We have a range of delicious snacks for our kids and families because sometimes they’re spending long days in the hospital.

22. Parent Lounge – Parents have a chance for coffee and a moment for themselves at this coffee bar just for our brave caregivers.

23. Parking Passes – Treatment is already a lot. We’re happy to take care of parking passes for our patients so there’s one less thing to worry about when you come into Roswell Park for a visit.

24. iPads – Time can tick by slowly during a long day in clinic. Thankfully we have some iPads for patients to borrow if they’re not feeling up to playroom fun but still need a distraction in their bay.

25. Birthday celebrations – Every day with our patients is special, but birthdays are EXTRA special. Let’s celebrate another year with each child we see at Roswell Park.

26. Milestone celebrations – If you’ve ever been in the Roswell Park main hospital lobby, you may have had the opportunity to hear a bell ringing in the light of a huge window. That’s the Victory Bell! Our patients have a special, colorful, pediatric bell next to the adult bell to ring at the end of treatment or at any milestone they want to celebrate along the way.

27. Toy cabinet – Courage of Carly is happy to have toys and activity books to give out to kiddos who are having really great days or really tough days. Occasionally you just need a little pick-me-up to bring a smile around.

28. Themed celebrations in clinic – If there’s one thing about our incredible pediatric team, they know how to have fun with a theme! Whether it’s a holiday or sports celebration, spirit week or awareness day, our themed celebrations help to uplift our patients their families.

29. Survivorship Guidebook – Life changes after you’ve had cancer. There’s a lot to know and a good deal to remember. We’re happy to provide this guidebook to help our survivors navigate their very bright and beautiful life ahead of them.

Other Amazing Stuff!

An infant receives treatment at Roswell Park

30. New member comfort kits – When we meet a new member, we love to gift them with a T-shirt, sweatshirt, water bottle, hat, squishy toy, popsocket, pens, sanitizer and Courage of Carly branded goodies to say welcome!

31. Gift cards – Donors are so kind to help us provide all kinds of gift cards to online stores or places around Western New York that can alleviate some of the burden from our families.

32. School outreach materials – Roswell Park pediatric psychologists make visits to our patients’ schools with family consent to help educate our patients’ teachers and peers about what they’re going through. We’re always looking to expand and improve this program, to help spread awareness and understanding and bring lots of compassion to kids battling these illnesses in the community.

33. Research – Maybe the longest-lasting, most forward-thinking thing Courage of Carly helps to provide. Cancer research is so critical, and pediatric cancer most of all. Cancer in kids is different from that in adults and requires it’s own specialized research, studies and clinical trials.

 

With YOUR support, Courage of Carly is able to be there for our pediatric patients and families in these ways and so many more.

26 Shirts holds Courage of Carly in Bills Mafia

26 Shirts holds Courage of Carly in Bills Mafia.

It’s playoff season in the football world and Buffalo is showing its trademarked grit. For well over a decade, Buffalo fans have been sporting the designs of 26 Shirts, a Buffalo-based business with a proven mission to care directly for families in need in WNY.

Since he started the Bills Mafia movement with a couple friends in 2011, 26 Shirts Founder Del Reid has made it known that the Mafia gear has deep ties to Courage of Carly. Today, 8% of Mafia sales are donated to the Courage of Carly Fund to support programs for pediatric patients and their families who seek care at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Where it all Began.

“It all dates back to when I was working at Roswell Park,” Del said. He dedicated over 14 years of his career to the Roswell Park mission through his role in IT. At the time 26 Shirts was something he did on the side, not knowing what it would become more than a decade down the road.

In 2011 the Bills Mafia movement kind of began,” he explained. “We were selling T-shirts and little merchandise items and people were asking, ‘Is this Bills Mafia thing just about selling T-shirts?’ and we were like, ‘No! Not at all!’”

That very same day, Del went straight to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation offices — just two floors up from where he worked — and made an incredible commitment. From that day forward, all Bills Mafia gear would benefit the Courage of Carly Fund through the Alliance Foundation.

Choosing Courage of Carly.

Del didn’t choose Roswell Park, or the Courage of Carly Fund more specifically, on a whim.

“The reason Courage of Carly was the angle we wanted to go with was because my wife was Carly’s cousin,” he said. Their family, like too many families, was all too familiar with the devastating loss of a child after a battle with cancer.

“Pediatric cancer in general is such a thief to parents and families, so I want to do what I can to help in that area. Once 26 Shirts took off, I wanted to make sure that Courage of Carly remained part of that Bills Mafia legacy.”

Mission Comes First.

It’s no accident that Del built a mission-centered business. His focus is on the people and families of Western New York and how his company can help them. Each T-shirt and many other items in their shop benefit different, focused causes. 26 Shirts is a testament to neighbors lifting up neighbors. It just so happens that the Mafia line is dedicated to Roswell Park and Courage of Carly.

“Roswell Park is at the forefront of any kind of cancer research, treatment, anything going on in Western New York,” Del said. “Having been the nation’s first cancer center, they have a long history of that. I’ve seen firsthand the work that Roswell Park does and I know they can be trusted with the money that we send them.”

To date, 26 Shirts has contributed close to $70,000 to support the Courage of Carly Fund at Roswell Park. That’s an incredible sum, due not only to their generosity, but the heart of their customers, as well.

“Anything I can ever do to continue to help push Roswell Park’s mission forward, even if I’m not working there anymore, I’ll always take that opportunity.”

 

Thank you to Del and the 26 Shirts family for all they do to support the families lifted up by the Courage of Carly Fund and the entire WNY community!

Meet the 2023 Tree of Hope lighter

Meet the 2023 Tree of Hope lighter.

On Wednesday, December 6, 12-year-old Tyler Kruse will light the Roswell Park Tree of Hope as this year’s guest of honor! Tyler was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in December 2022 during a particularly snowy week. Since then, he has faced challenges with courage and hope, more than earning his reputation for being “Tyler Tough.”

The team at Roswell Park was delighted to surprise Tyler with the opportunity to light the Tree of Hope with the help of some of our friends and partners on the Buffalo Sabres.

“There was a photoshoot with some of the Sabres and they took me into a room,” Tyler says. “Owen Power (Sabres defenseman) told me I was going to light the tree! That was really cool! I was very excited.”

Tyler’s journey isn’t over yet, but he’s already working very hard to make a difference for other kids who are navigating similar experiences. Join us December 6 in Kaminski Park to cheer him on and celebrate life at Tree of Hope!

Spreading Childhood Cancer Awareness with Ted’s and Sahlen’s

Spreading Childhood Cancer Awareness with Ted's and Sahlen's.

Kids are helping kids at Ted's! beside a drawing of a Ted's hot dog kids meal.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and YOU can be part of spreading the news alongside Ted’s and Sahlen’s. 

Throughout September, 20% of all Ted’s kids meal sales will be donated to the Courage of Carly Fund at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Your kids meal will be fueling not just you, but amazing programs and services for kids and families facing cancer and blood disorders.

Every kid who joins in will receive a raffle ticket with their kids meal for a chance to win four free tickets to Hockey Fights Cancer in Buffalo, New York, this fall. Make sure you fill that out and put it in the collection box (there’s one at every Ted’s location) by September 30. We’ll let the winners know the good news in early October!

Your kids meal comes with a chance to win! Enter to win four free hockey tickets with every kids meal.

Thanks for helping us spread childhood cancer awareness this September with Ted’s and Sahlen’s! 

12 Days of Holiday Magic 2022

Celebrating 12 Days of Holiday Magic.

This year, Courage of Carly is ready to celebrate 12 Days of Holiday Magic together! To make sure our members can be safe and feel comfortable with this year’s festivities, we have all kinds of activities to participate in at home or in person. The fun will start on Dec. 2 and go through Dec. 13. 

None of these celebrations of holiday magic would be possible without the generosity of our sponsor, The Wanakah Country Club 100 Holes of Golf Challenge. Thanks to our friends, we can fulfill our work of bringing a little extra hope and happiness to our patients and their families.

Roswell Park at night with holiday lights in the foreground.

Day 1: Buffalo Zoo Lights.

Friday, Dec. 2 – Members and immediate families can kickoff the holiday festivities by taking in dazzling light displays at the Buffalo Zoo on Dec. 2. Enjoy the lights at your own pace, but don’t forget to pick up your at-home activities for the next few days!

Day 2: Decorate Cookies.

Saturday, Dec. 3 – The holidays bring sweets, we didn’t make the rules. Members will decorate cookies together at home!

Day 3: Family Game Night.

Sunday, Dec. 4 – Family time is so precious. Even if it gets a little competitive! It’s time for fun and games together at home.

Day 4: Make an Ornament.

Monday, Dec. 5 – Whether decorating a tree or a home, holiday magic will fill our members’ homes with these ornament projects.

Day 5: Build a Puzzle.

Tuesday, Dec. 6 – More family fun for our patients, their siblings and friends. What will your puzzle look like? Who can solve it the quickest?

Day 6: Drink Hot Cocoa.

Wednesday, Dec. 7 – The holidays can be chilly, especially in Western New York. We’ll keep our members warm with a little mid-week cocoa.

Day 7: Zoom Call with Santa & Mrs. Claus.

Thursday, Dec. 8 – Ho, ho, ho! Who wants to chat with one of our favorite holiday magic duo? We do! Big thanks to Santa and Mrs. Claus for always making time for the pediatric patients at Roswell Park.

Day 8: Roswell Park Tree of Hope.

Friday, Dec. 9 – Join our own member, Mya, as she lights up over 100,000 lights at Roswell Park’s Kaminski Park! In addition to the lighting of the tree, the event will have live music, carriage rides, a candle lighting ceremony, hot chocolate and other tasty treats. Anyone can watch the tree lighting on WGRZ-TV, Channel 2 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Day 9: Decorate a Gingerbread House.

Saturday, Dec. 10 – Frosting and gumdrops and sprinkles, oh my! It’s a holiday tradition that never gets old and always stays sweet.

Day 10: Holiday Movie at Aurora Theatre.

Sunday, Dec. 11 – Courage of Carly families will have a special, private holiday movie showing at the historic Aurora Theatre, courtesy of our friends at The West Herr Automotive Group, especially Scott and Kathy Bieler.

Day 11: Sabres Holiday Visit at Roswell Park.

Monday, Dec. 12 – One of our favorite days at the hospital is back! Our friends from the Buffalo Sabres will be visiting Roswell Park patients throughout the hospital and then will join Courage of Carly members for some fun! 

Day 12: Courage of Carly Holiday Party.

Tuesday, Dec. 13 – We’re back for a holiday night to remember at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center for the first time since 2019. Keeping safety measures in place, this year’s party might look a little bit different, but we’re grateful to have the chance to celebrate our patients and their families in person.

You Can Help!

Not a Courage of Carly member? No problem! You can also share in a little bit of holiday magic this season. Our patients and their siblings (21 and under) who come to the holiday party have made a wish list again this year. If you want to help contribute to a little extra happiness and holiday spirit this year, check out our Amazon Wishlist!

Looking for other ways to help? There’s so much you can do! Check out this page to get started.

If you have any questions, you can reach out to Courage of Carly Coordinator Megan Crawford at megan.crawford@roswellpark.org.

10 ways to help during Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorder Awareness Month

10 ways to help during Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorder Awareness Month.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Blood Disorders Awareness Month, a very special time of year when we honor children affected by pediatric cancers and blood disorders. The goal is to raise awareness of these diseases and the need for safer and more effective treatments.

This month and every month, you can make a difference in the lives of children and families who turn to Roswell Park for hope. When you support the Courage of Carly Fund, you’re supporting important family and patient care programs and fueling critically needed pediatric cancer research right here in Western New York.

Dr. Kara Kelly smiles with a young patient in an exam room
An infant receives treatment at Roswell Park

Here are 10 ways you can help make an impact on the fight against childhood cancers and blood disorders:

  1. Sign up for Roswell Park Alliance Foundation’s 62 by You October Challenge
  2. Have a #ShineGold Day
    • Stand in solidarity with those fighting and be a part of the change in childhood cancer research by hosting a “Shine Gold Day” at your school or workplace.
    • Contact Megan Crawford at Megan.Crawford@RoswellPark.org for a “Shine Gold Day” event pack.
  3. Donate Blood Products at Roswell Park
    • Pediatric cancer and blood disorder patients have a consistent need for blood products, and donors are the only ones who can meet that need. Give life, give blood at Roswell Park! Call The Donor Center today at 716-845-8275 or visit them on Facebook.
  4. Start a fundraiser
    • This is your chance to get creative and make an impact with a fundraiser that’s unique to you! No matter what you decide, we’re grateful to you for making a difference in the lives of pediatric cancer and blood disorder patients.
    • Contact Mary Russo at Mary.Russo@RoswellPark.org or 716-845-4977 with questions.
  5. Become an ambassador for childhood cancers and blood disorders
  6. Workplace giving
    • Employees are often looking for opportunities to make a difference in their community.  Whether it is a dress down day or a company match on employee donations, your workplace community can make a difference in the fight against childhood cancer and blood disorders.
  7. Host a gift card drive for Courage of Carly Fund families affected by diagnoses
    • We have limited space in the pediatric clinic to store all the wonderful gifts we have for our kids. We kindly recommend holding a gift card drive, instead of a traditional toy drive. Gift cards allow us to maximize your gift to our patients because they provide our staff with the flexibility to make “on-demand” toy purchases or allow patients to have some freedom in their decision making during a time when most decisions are out of their control.
    • Our most popular gift card requests include gas and grocery stores, Target, Walmart, Tim Hortons, gaming system credits and Amazon.
  8. Donate
    • When you donate to the Courage of Carly Fund, you’re fueling lifesaving research and life-changing programs for pediatric patients and their families. Not only are you looking to the future of pediatric cancer and blood disorder treatment, you’re caring for these children now, in the middle of their fight.
  9. Talk to your favorite stores and businesses
    • If this mission is close to your heart, there’s a good chance it’s important to other people and groups in your life. Talk to the people behind your favorite stores and businesses to see if they’re involved with Courage of Carly and Roswell Park. If they’re not, see if they might want to join you in supporting pediatric cancer and blood disorder patients.
  10. Show up for friends and family who are impacted
    • Sometimes the best way to help a family affected by childhood cancer is just showing up when times get tough. Offer to help with transportation, watching siblings, being a shoulder to cry on, send an occasional thinking of you message. It is helping in these ways that sometimes have the most meaningful impact.

However you decide to join in the fight this month, we’re grateful to have you! Thanks for all you’re doing to support Roswell Park’s youngest patients.

Buffalo game supports pediatric patients

Buffalo game supports pediatric patients.

In 2021, Roswell Park and Oishei Children’s Hospital teamed up to create a Buffalo game that supports pediatric patients. With over 50 community partners, they worked with Hasbro and the Cooley Group. The result: the First Edition City of Buffalo MONOPOLY game.

In just over a month, 7,500 limited-edition games were sold at Western New York Tops Friendly Markets locations. The effort raised $405,000 for the Roswell Park Oishei Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Program. People across the country bought the game to enjoy the first-of-its-kind game celebrating all things Buffalo. Better still, they were supporting some of our area’s youngest patients and their families.

Pediatric patient holds First Edition City of Buffalo MONOPOLY game.
Logos for Roswell Park and Oishei Children's hospitals for their cancer and blood disorders program

Playing to support pediatric patients.

One of those patients, Andre Sanders, was able to celebrate the launch of the new game and represent all pediatric cancer patients in WNY.

Andre was diagnosed at age 4 with Wilms tumor, a type of cancer on his kidney.

After several rounds of radiation and nine months of chemotherapy, Andre the Warrior rang the Roswell Park Victory Bell in May 2020.

Impact of the new game.

The funds raised made way for Roswell Park to create a dedicated Pediatric Transplant Nurse Coordinator position. This role, now held by Erin Hughes, RN, will support our pediatric and young adult patients. Erin coordinates transplants and everything leading up to them, including finding a donor when needed. This specialized role allows Erin to spend time with patients and families, guiding them through the process and managing their individual needs along the way.

Getting to know Erin.

Erin has been at Roswell Park for her entire career and has always had an interest in specializing in pediatric care. Now as a mom herself, that call has an even stronger pull.

“I can see the bigger picture. Not only wanting to help a patient, but their parents and their families through the entire process,” she said. In this role, she’s able to follow each patient throughout the process to ensure they receive the quality care they need.

Erin is looking forward to being a familiar face for patients and families. “It can be helpful just having someone in this role who understands the entire process.” There’s a lot that transplant coordinators do leading up to, through and even post-transplant.

“You know, I’m excited, it’s a new position. I’ll get to help build it as I work closely with the pediatric doctors and team and talk about what we want this role to be.”

This Buffalo game supports pediatric patients with cancer and blood disorders now and into the future. All thanks to donor support and the City of Good Neighbors.

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.

Toddler pediatric patient who has lost his hair wears a bright red shirt and 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!