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11 Day Power Play raises $1.6 million for battle against cancer

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — More than 2,500 hockey players have been lacing up their skates the past several days all for a great cause. Sunday marked the closing ceremonies for the 11 Day Power Play.

“Warm hearts on cold ice” is how one spectator described the 11 Day Power Play, which for the last eight years has been using the sport of hockey and the generosity of its players to raise millions of dollars to battle cancer.

“I’ve lost a lot of people to cancer in the family and outside of the family,” player Andrew Case said. “So that idea just really made me feel like this is what you got to do.”

Co-founders Amy Lesakowski, who beat breast cancer, and Michael Lesakowski, who lost his mother to the disease, founded the event to break the longest hockey game record — all while raising funds for a cure.

“We figured, ‘Why not do a longest hockey game that raises money for cancer?'” Amy Lesakowski said. “Here we are eight years later, still raising money through the community shift, which is our largest event.”

What started with only 40 skaters now boasts over 2,500. Teams need to initially raise $255 to play, but Case, who was a member of the founding team in 2017, said that’s never been a problem.

“Lots of people raise so much more than that,” Case said. “People set goals of 1,500, 5,000, 10,000, and that’s what really makes it exciting, because people go well beyond their goals and their fundraising, and we celebrate that.”

At this point, more than $10 million has been raised, with over $6 million going to Roswell Park. The event has also helped them to send more than 670 children to Camp Good Days and supported more than 230 wishes with Make-A-Wish.

Last year, the event raised $1.5 million, and this year’s donation topped that at $1.6 million.

“The researchers at Roswell, they’re closing in on it and they tell us directly that those funds that we raise are critical to their success,” Case said.

“Buffalo is a Hockey Town and Buffalo is a very community driven and generous,” Michael Lesakowski said. “I don’t think you can do it in all communities. It’s a no brainer if you’re here in Buffalo and we’re going to continue doing it as long as we have to.”

Sunday capped off the 11-day event with the top-three fundraising teams playing against and with Buffalo Sabres alumni like Larry Playfair, Andrew Peters and Eric Boulton, among others. The top three teams alone raised $213,000.

“A lot of people are diagnosed every day and we’re going to keep going until people don’t hear ‘You have cancer,’” Amy Lesakowski said.

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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