During the last six seasons, the Pembroke High School Girls’ Basketball Team has focused on winning — not just league games, but the battle against breast cancer. It’s a cause that is personal to the team and their school district because of the number of faculty and community members who have been affected by the disease. Yet according to Senior Captain, Olivia Kohorst, this year’s fundraiser (7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25th vs. Oakfield-Alabama) is particularly important as it marks the final season she will be able to play in the event.
“I was only in sixth grade when the first varsity team came up with the idea to host the first Shooting For A Cure! game in support of Toni Funke’s battle with breast cancer,” said senior Olivia Kohorst.
The team spent that inaugural season seeking support from the community and local businesses in hopes of funding research efforts at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) in honor of Mrs. Funke.
“I remember being on the PYA team at the time with my friends. A lot of us went to that first game and I remember wearing pink and that the gym was really crowded! As a young kid, to see our community come together the way they did in support of Mrs. Funke made a lasting impression on me. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of that, part of something bigger than just me playing basketball with my friends,” Kohorst said.
“This fundraiser means more to our team every season. It gives us an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and it gives us greater purpose not only as student-athletes but as people. Cancer affects us all, my family included, and to be a part of a team that supports those fighting means more to me than I can express in words.
“Being a part of Shooting For A Cure! has affected me in such a positive way. Playing in this game was the highlight of each season I played basketball at Pembroke and I look forward to still being involved after I graduate.”
While the Pembroke Girls Basketball team started the Shooting For A Cure! tradition, there is one standout supporter of the event that truly makes the game special and successful year after year. Wesley Cliff, a senior at Pembroke Jr./Sr. High School, has gone above and beyond in seeking donations to support the team’s fundraising efforts this season.
Moreover, Wesley has been crucial in the implementation of this fundraiser throughout his high school career, helping in any way he can.
“His passion to help the community and all those impacted by cancer is inspiring to our entire team,” Kohorst said. “Wesley’s involvement with the Shooting For A Cure! mission started off as a behind-the-scenes role when he entered high school; however this being his senior year, he wanted to become more involved.
"He saw this as a great opportunity to give back to our school and our community. We truly value all he has done over the years to share our mission.
Wesley has recently secured donation amounts of $1,762.80 from Summit Lubricants of Batavia as well as $500 from DuPont of Buffalo, in addition to several other monetary and product donations from local area businesses.
In addition to these generous donations, the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) will again be donating an astounding $2,500 to RPCI in support of Shooting For A Cure! this season.
“Roswell Park has done incredible things for our membership," said Western Region NYSCOPBA Vice President Joe Miano. "It has helped so many of our members and their families battling cancer. We wanted to give back to Roswell Park as well as support the incredible efforts of the Pembroke Girls Basketball team.”
As a former Pembroke graduate and current resident, Miano is a firm believer in this cause.
“This group of young women, with the support of the Pembroke School District, continues to do great things for the community beyond the basketball court. It’s truly inspiring and we wanted to take this opportunity to reinforce their efforts,” Miano said.
Miano, accompanied by a few additional members, will take part in a check presentation with the team to be held prior to the varsity game.
At this time direct online donations are now being accepted in support of Shooting For A Cure! through this site: http://give.roswellpark.org/goto/ShootingForACurePGBB.
The team hopes Shooting For A Cure! will continue its tradition of topping the previous years’ fundraising total.
“All of the money raised that evening goes directly to support cancer research at Roswell Park,” sophomore Mackenna Johnson said. “Playing basketball for Pembroke is not just about trying to win games, it’s about giving back to the community and showing our support for those in need.
“My oldest sister Breanna and her teammates started Shooting For A Cure! back in 2011 in support of Mrs. Funke, and what they started has become one of the largest Team Roswell fundraising events. Last season, we raised over $20,000 in one night, it was amazing! Our community is so supportive and we truly can’t thank all of the volunteers and donors enough for all that they do to support this game."
Roswell Park has officially sanctioned Shooting For A Cure! as a Team Cure fundraiser and as a valuable example of the way that young people can make a difference.
“We continue to be impressed by the Pembroke Girls’ Basketball Team each and every season," said Alex Hoaglund, Team Roswell special events coordinator. "They push themselves, not only on the court, but off the court as well, going above and beyond for the benefit of others.
"It’s inspirational to have a group of teens who are so passionate about raising funds for cancer research at Roswell Park. These girls continue to demonstrate an incredible amount of compassion. This team is special and their community is remarkable.
"Although the players may change each season, Shooting For A Cure! has remained constant, with the girls leading the charge for six consecutive seasons. To think that they’ve has raised over $60,000 in six seasons with this game is a testament to the benevolence of the entire Pembroke community as well as this special team.”