Hospitality icon Russell J. Salvatore made a SURPRISE donation to the Pembroke High School Dragons Varsity Girls Basketball team, their Coach Ronald Funke, and “Shoot For The Cure” event organizer and Special Education teacher Michael Wilson Thursday, March 25th at 11 a.m.
Salvatore presented a check for $6,000, bringing the “Shooting For A Cure!” to their 10-year goal of $200,000, supporting research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The Pembroke Girls Basketball Team recently hosted their 10th Annual charity “Shooting For A Cure!” -- called the “Pink Game”-- on Friday, March 5th at Pembroke High School.
The game and fundraising efforts this year totaled more than $42,000, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past 10 seasons, the games have raised over $194,000. Organizers however had hoped to eclipse the $200,000 mark by April 1st. Broadcast and social media have been supportive of the team, the cause, and the community.
Event organizer Michael Wilson said, “This is just unbelievable! We are so thankful to Mr. Salvatore for stepping up in support of the team, and Roswell. These girls, and the players before them, play their hearts out. The 'Shooting For A Cure' has been bringing people together in our community for such a good cause."
Salvatore said, “To see the excitement on the faces of the team, and everyone involved in helping Roswell Park, is very special. I am so glad to be able to support these fine young people who have done so much for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.”
The gift Salvatore was made at Russell's Steaks, Chops, and More & Salvatore's Grand Hotel and restaurant.
Others in attendance included: Pembroke School Superintendent, Matt Calderon; Athletic Director, Ryan Winchip; Basketball Coach, Ron Funke with his wife, Toni Funke (who was the inspiration for the “Pink Game"); teacher Aaron Brown; Mike Wilson's wife, Jennifer Wilson; Mike's mother, Kathy Wittman; with daughters, Cameron and Ava Wilson; Roswell Park fundraising manager, MacKenzie Giancarlo; Roswell Park fundraising coordinator Mary Russell; and the Pembroke High School Girls Basketball Team -- Emily Peters; Serene Calderón (who spoke to media); Nicole von Kramer; Allie Schwerthoffer ( who spoke at the podium); Sydney Johnson; Ally Dubois-Rider' Ariel Moss; Isabel Breeden; and Karli Houseknecht.
A child of immigrant parents, Salvatore started in the restaurant business at his father's East Delevan Avenue location in the 1930s. He served in the Army in the 1950s. In 1967, Salvatore sold his home and purchased a small pizza business that would later become Salvatore's Italian Gardens for just $40,000. After leaving that business at age 75, he decided he was not done and opened Russell's Steaks, Chops, and More and Salvatore's Grand Hotel in 2008. Russell's has been honored as the top Steakhouse in New York State.
Through the years, Russell has always given back to the community in so many ways. He has purchased tens of thousands of Buffalo Bills tickets so blacked-out games could air on television, and those less fortunate could attend. This list of hometown organizations Salvatore has touched is almost too many to count.
They include Trocaire College School of Hospitality; Erie County Medical Center “Free to Patient” flatscreen TVs, Orthopedic Rehabilitation Floor and Atrium Lobby, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Oishei Children's Hospital, Sister's Hospital, and St. Joe's Hospital “Free to Patient” flatscreen TV's; Red Cross, new mobile Blood Drive Vans; Kevin Guest House; Russell J. Salvatore Hospitality House & Bone Marrow Rehabilitation Center; Buffalo State College, Russell J. Salvatore Demonstration Kitchen; 10 veterans transportation vans; Brothers of Mercy Rehabilitation Center, Shea's Center for the Performing Arts; Lancaster Year-Round Indoor Baseball Facility; Boys and Girls ClubsLancaster re-build after a fire; Buffalo Hearing and Speech Center; UB Medical New Student Center Downtown Campus; Gospa House Respite Home for unwed Mothers; Niagara University Russell J. Salvatore Student Commons construction; Mathewson McCarthy Baseball Field Batting House & Field Restoration; Miracle League of Grand Island Special Needs Baseball Diamond and Park; are just some of the organizations Salvatore has supported as a philanthropist.