In 2011 the Pembroke High School Girls’ Basketball Team approached then Head Coach Mike Wilson with an idea; they wanted to show their support for Toni Funke in her battle against breast cancer by hosting a game in her honor, which would bring the community together to raise funds and awareness for cancer research at Roswell Park.
This simple act of love eight seasons ago has now grown into one of Roswell Park’s largest community‑based fundraising events. To date, Shooting For A Cure! has raised more than $88,000 for cancer research, and this season, the team hopes to eclipse the $100,000 mark in total funds raised.
This year’s fundraiser (7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 10th vs. Notre Dame) will mark the eighth consecutive season the Pembroke team will be focused on winning—not just league games, but the battle against cancer. It’s a cause that remains personal to the team and their school district because of the number of students, faculty, staff and community members who have been affected by cancer.
“The Shooting For A Cure! game isn’t just a basketball game, it’s about trying to change peoples’ lives for the better. It’s about making a positive change in our community and using our platform as players to try and make a difference,” said senior Unique Bryant.
Since the inaugural game, each team—including all of the new members—looks for ways to widen the impact of the game.
“Our team has been looking forward to the Shooting For A Cure! game since last season; it’s our favorite game of the year. We rally together with the community and use this game as a means to fight alongside those currently battling cancer,” Unique said. “On a personal level, this game is extremely special to me, as my mother is a cancer survivor. When I was about 5-years-old, she was diagnosed and battled like a warrior. I have so much love and respect for her. She’s my hero."
Junior Casey Wurtz will be playing in her third Shooting For A Cure! game this year at the varsity level.
“Each game becomes more meaningful to me," Casey said. "Three of my aunts have battled cancer. Two of them are survivors, but sadly, one of them lost her battle. This disease has been tough on my family to say the least. My grandmother was just recently diagnosed as well, and I want to do all I can to support her. This game gives my teammates and me the opportunity to come together for a cause much bigger than us.
"This game brings us all together one night a year as a Pembroke community, united, in the fight against this disease. It’s overwhelming, in the best way, to share in such a night. When I look back on my years in high school, I will always remember playing in the Shooting For A Cure! games with my team and doing our best to support those in need while trying to find a cure for this awful disease."
The 2018-2019 Shooting For A Cure! donors list has grown to more than 100 merchants and individuals including: 26Shirts, ADPRO Sports, Batavia’s Original Pizzeria, Clarence Deli, Coca-Cola of Rochester, Courage of Carly Foundation, Crickler Vending, Dave & Adam’s Card World, Dixon Ticonderoga, Eli Fish, Fava Brothers Lawn Care, Fenton’s Produce, Five Guys, Haun Welding, Hershey’s Ice Cream, Insty-Prints, Kohorst Trucking, Linda’s Family Diner, moondanceCat, Northtown Automotive, Original Pizza Logs, Pillar Real Estate Investors, Silver Lake Country Club, Southwest Airlines, Tim Hortons, Yancey’s Fancy and the YMCA.
Many of the product donations will become game night auction baskets and raffle prizes. Monies will also be raised from apparel sales and food sales with the generous support of local companies.
“This year we will have some one-of-a-kind donation items on hand for our supporters to win," said event coordinator Mike Wilson. "A Corfu resident spent countless hours building a beautiful, rustic-style kitchen table with a matching bench and two chairs. Currently, two of our students are creating custom Adirondack chairs with a matching table in support of our mission.
"We were just recently donated four tickets to sit behind the Syracuse bench at an upcoming basketball game in March as well as four suite level tickets for a Sabres game in February. Dry Creek Group has again donated a fully catered dinner party for eight guests out in Hamburg and Fenton’s Produce just donated a helicopter ride for two over Niagara Falls.
"Southwest Airlines even donated a pair of roundtrip flights anywhere they fly in the U.S. in support of our Shooting For A Cure! mission. The generosity shown throughout our community, at every level, is overwhelming, to say the least. Our Pembroke community is unlike any other.
"It is remarkable how many people come out to support the team’s mission each season. What started off as a small act of love, in support of Toni Funke eight years ago, has now become a community-wide movement that we strongly believe in. We’ll continue Shooting For A Cure! at Pembroke until a cure is found."
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 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in support of Shooting For A Cure! this season.
“Roswell Park has done incredible things for our membership. It has helped so many of our members and their families battling cancer. We wanted to give back to Roswell as well as support the incredible efforts of the Pembroke Girls Basketball team,” said Western Region NYSCOPBA Vice President Joe Miano.
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," Miano said. "It’s truly inspiring and we wanted to take this opportunity to reinforce their efforts.”
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.
Additionally, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation has revamped their online platform and developed a Team Roswell site. Direct online donations are now being accepted in support of Shooting For A Cure! at: http://give.roswellpark.org/goto/ShootingForACure
The team hopes Shooting For A Cure! will continue its tradition of topping the previous year’s fundraising total.
“Last year we were able to raise over $27,000 as a community for cancer research, which is just overwhelming when you think about it! We live in such a great community with caring people who really want to help in any way they can,” sophomore Emily Peters said.
“Playing basketball at Pembroke isn’t just about scoring points and winning games; it’s about doing what we can to pay it forward. It’s about coming together as a team, as a community, to support those fighting cancer and to try and do our part to help find a cure. This game brings our team together and it gives us a much greater purpose when we step on the court."
Roswell Park has officially sanctioned Shooting For A Cure! as a Team Cure, community events 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. "What an incredible legacy that 2011 team left, built on compassion and altruism. What each team has been able to accomplish since the first game is truly inspirational. Shooting For A Cure! is one of the top, if not the top, ongoing high school community events fundraisers for Roswell Park.
“This small community continues to do big things. At this moment Shooting For A Cure! has raised over $88,000 for cancer research at Roswell Park. I have a feeling this season they’ll eclipse the $100,000 mark in total funds raised earning them a ‘Leadership Circle’ distinction on our donor wall in the hospital lobby.
"Pembroke’s Shooting For A Cure! game is making a difference in the fight against cancer. The money they’re raising each season is funding cutting-edge research and saving lives. Team Roswell is so thankful to partner with this team and their community every year.”