Cancer Support Unicorns Go Above and Beyond
Meet the Cancer Support Unicorns, one of our top Starting Lineup teams!
Not only has this team already raised over $1,100 for Henry Ford patients battling cancer — but you might recognize them as some of the incredible Henry Ford cancer staff working tirelessly every day to improve patient lives. When the workday is done, they go above and beyond the call of their roles to raise money through Game On Cancer for the patients they work with every day.
“I’m passionate about fundraising for Game On Cancer because the money goes directly to making a difference in our patients’ lives,” shared team captain Carey Papalekas, Manager of Patient Resources in Supportive Oncology Services.
“No one should have to make a choice between paying for a lifesaving treatment and feeding their family — so until that’s not a reality people face, I want to raise as much money as possible to help offset bills during active cancer treatment.”
The Cancer Support Unicorns were so excited to get started, they kicked off their 2022 fundraising season early with a St. Patrick’s Day candygram sale at Henry Ford that raised over $800 for Game On Cancer.
Congratulations, Cancer Support Unicorns! Thank you for leading our Starting Lineup, and for the incredible work you do every day to support Henry Ford patients.
Fresh-Squeezed Fundraising with Team Lemon-Aid!
Looking for some refreshing inspiration? The (re)FRESH(ment) Stand is serving year-round!
On a hot summer day, 11-year-old Harrison Pytel thought what any neighborhood kid might — today’s a great day for a crisp, cool lemonade stand. But unlike most kids his age, Harrison’s fun family activity sprouted into a year-round fundraising destination.
With the help of his family and “staff” of siblings, Harrison Pytel founded The (re)FRESH(ment) Stand, a variety of seasonal stands with a generous twist.
First came The Fresh Squeeze lemonade stand, a classic summer staple. Harrison made his very first $5 — which he promptly placed into a donation box for veterans that he had spotted at a local restaurant. “If people are in need, I like to donate,” he said.
From there, Harrison found his purpose and his creative streak. Next came The Fresh Press, with fresh cider and doughnuts in the fall; then The Fresh Mix, where folks could build the perfect cocoa and s’mores by a crackling fire; and each time, Harrison saved his earnings to donate.
This year, thanks to a suggestion from his Uncle Dave — a cancer survivor who was treated at Henry Ford Health — Harrison will donate his hard-earned proceeds to Game On Cancer.
"A lot of people in my family have gone through cancer,” shared Harrison, who lost his Uncle Bradley to cancer in 2020. “I think other people should have what they need while they’re going through it.”
Harrison’s Game On Cancer fundraising team (cleverly named Lemon-Aid) kicked off the year on Earth Day with The Fresh Bloom—a pot-your-own plant sale with lavender lemonade and floral cookies.
Together, Team Lemon-Aid raised over $400 to benefit local cancer patients on their very first day. Congratulations to our fresh new fundraiser!
Local Student Steps Up for Game On Cancer
"As a seventeen-year-old girl, a cancer diagnosis is the last thing you want to hear."
After two surgeries and completing radiation treatment for a rare cancer in her leg, high school senior Tayah Broughman decided she wouldn't stop at beating her own cancer she wanted to help other patients on their journey, too.
Tayah rallied her entire school around the cause by organizing a month-long fundraiser during February for National Cancer Awareness Month.
With the support of her community, Tayah raised nearly $7,000 for Game On Cancer to benefit patients at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, presenting the check to a group of the doctors, nurses, radiation therapists and social workers from Henry Ford Allegiance who helped her through her journey.
Congratulations, Tayah - thank you for all your hard work!
Interested in hosting a GOC fundraising event of your own? Contact email@example.com to learn more.
Grit, Hard Work and Helping Hands in a Fight Against Brain Cancer
We often say we’re “tougher together” here at Game On Cancer. Dorothea “Dottie” Billy exemplifies a fighting spirit, resilience and is a testament to how coming together to lend a hand can change a life.
Dottie’s resilience and fighting spirit helped her emerge from a childhood in the foster care system and housing insecurities to where she is today - pursuing her master’s degree in Social Work at Wayne State University.
But that journey didn’t come along easily complicated by a malignant and re-occurring Hemangiopericytoma (an extremely rare cancer) requiring two craniotomies and ongoing radiation. In June of 2019, Dottie turned to Henry Ford Health System’s Hermelin Brain Tumor Center for a six-hour surgery and treatment.
After successful treatment led by her Henry Ford care team, Dottie’s cancer is under control. She still struggles with side effects and needs MRIs to monitor her condition twice a year, but she’s been able to resume her education. This June, just two years after brain surgery, Dottie will earn her Masters in Social Work.
“I’ve worked so hard to get here,” Dottie said. “Along the way I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have and take things one day at time. Nothing is ever promised, so you have to be patient and just keep fighting.”
Dottie is quick to acknowledge everyone who has supported her in the fight. Those that became “tougher together,” including friends, advisors, mentors, doctors, support groups and a helping hand from Game On Cancer. GOC has paid several months of Dottie’s rent so that she could focus on getting well and finishing school. We certainly know the importance of wonderful social workers here at Game On Cancer and couldn’t be happier to be a small part of Dottie’s journey.
“I haven’t been able to work because of the pandemic, and Game On Cancer helped me stay in my apartment,” Dottie said. “I’ve experienced homelessness in the past, so that support was extremely meaningful.”
After graduation, Dottie will be equipped for a career working with youth, seniors and others in need of social work services. Her ultimate goal is to establish an organization helping girls who are in the foster care system.
It’ll take a lot of fight to achieve, but she’s already proven to have plenty of that.
Acupuncture Funded By Game On Cancer Relieves Pain
Megan Langford has weathered some daunting challenges in her battle with cancer, including a major surgery to remove a tumor spanning her brain stem and spine.
The surgery was successful in reducing the size of her tumor, but it also resulted in chronic pain in her arm and hand. Megan’s neuro-oncologist, Dr. James Snyder from Henry Ford’s Hermelin Brain Tumor Center, recommended she consider acupuncture as an option to relieve her pain.
Cost could have been an issue, since Megan’s insurance does not cover acupuncture as an approved expense. Fortunately, Game On Cancer leverages donor support to make this critical resource available to patients, funding approximately 95 percent of the acupuncture costs for Henry Ford Cancer Institute patients.
It’s making a real difference for Megan and her family.
“Since starting acupuncture sessions with Dr. Zeyiad Elias, I’ve been able to reduce my pain medication use by more than half,” Megan said.
“I'm able to spend more time enjoying life with my husband and daughter and doing activities again that make me happy, like gardening, camping, painting and 3D design work.”
Megan credits the reduction in pain with improving her thinking and quality of life. She’s taking advantage of that improvement to support other patients and families by volunteering on the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center Patients and Families Advisory Council.
She’s grateful to all the Game On Cancer donors and supporters who helped make this possible.
“Thank you, Game On Cancer donors for this tremendous gift,” Megan said. “Without it, my life would be much more painful and negatively impacted due to my cancer.”
Brain Cancer Survivor Serves Up Support for Game On Cancer
Their dream was interrupted only two weeks later when Kate had to be rushed to the Emergency Room for treatment of debilitating headaches. A brain scan revealed a quarter-sized mass in her brain.
Her family advocated to have her transferred to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where she spent two weeks under the care of our team. Neurological surgeon Adam Robin, M.D., performed a complicated procedure to resect Kate’s tumor just eight days after her diagnosis.
“My family heard that the neurology department at Henry Ford was amazing and they really fought to have me sent there,” she said. “I received such compassionate care from all the nurses, physicians and specialists.”
After six weeks of radiation, followed by twelve months of chemotherapy, Kate returned to work full-time, and she and Rick will be opening Ziggy’s Ice Cream for their third season in April, 2021.
Throughout her cancer treatment, Kate has received support and friendship from her care teams and became close with Lisa Scarpace, a program manager with the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center at Henry Ford. Lisa has served as a beacon of hope and optimism, and the encouragement, empathy and expert care that Kate has received has motivated her to help other patients, now and in the future.
In 2020, Kate and her whole family dove into giving back by creating a fundraising team for Game On Cancer, collecting donations to support Hermelin’s Patient Service Fund.
By hosting a special Game On Cancer fundraiser at Ziggy’s and leveraging its beloved place in the Grand Blanc community, Kate’s team raised $9,392, placing them in the top-ten of all the fundraising teams. Her whole family helped, including her husband, sister, niece and three children: Sydney, Calvin and Sela. Kate’s Henry Ford doctors even joined in, scooping ice cream for customers.
Kate has felt impressed and supported by the team spirit and coaching that Game On Cancer provides to its fundraising teams.
“The Game On Cancer experience is so positive, including the final event with the Detroit Lions at the end of the campaign,” Kate said. “It’s especially important to me that 100 percent of the funds we raise go directly to support Hermelin patients.”
Kate also feels a tremendous amount of gratitude and love for the Grand Blanc community, which has stepped forward in inspiring fashion to support the cause. The family and the team at Ziggy’s are gearing up to participate again in 2021, and Kate is determined to be a top Game On Cancer team this year.
Game On Cancer Helps Community Leader Focus On Recovery
When she completed her chemotherapy treatments at Henry Ford Hospital last July, Gladys Powe celebrated by sharing balloons with her friends and fellow patients featuring a printed message reading, “You Rock!” In her moment of celebration, she sought to inspire others.
This act of encouragement reveals a lot about Gladys’s vibrant, generous spirit.
She’s close with her four adult children and four grandchildren, living an active life filled with music, family and faith.
As an employee at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Gladys offers academic support, mentorship and guidance to students from her community. She also is a talented singer with multiple gospel recordings to her name and has served as youth administrator and a beloved role model for the children’s choir at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020, Gladys embarked on a challenging journey right as the COVID-19 pandemic was upending life for so many. It was a scary time.
Fortunately, Gladys’s team at Henry Ford Cancer Institute — led by Dr. Haythem Ali, Dr. Eleanor Walker and Dr. Erica Proctor — provided excellent care, and her treatment has progressed well. “I have received wonderful care at HFCI,” she said. “The team has been great, from top to bottom.”
Thanks to Game On Cancer, Gladys also received needed support for the financial challenges presented by cancer. Game On Cancer’s patient assistance fund helped her pay a property tax bill over the summer that was causing stress, enabling Gladys to remain secure in her home and focus on her health and treatments.
“I am is so grateful to have survived cancer and thankful that God helped me get through these hardships,” Gladys said. “Game On Cancer was there for me when I needed it, and I’m proud to now be in a position to help others.”
Honoring Joe Greene's Fight
Joseph Greene was diagnosed with brain cancer in March 2018, just a few days shy of his 30th birthday. Joe worked in the hospitality industry, and friends and family knew him as a fun-loving, happy guy who liked to make people laugh.
“Joe was very outgoing, a people person,” says his mother Teri Collver. “His strength, courage and faith kept him going and his perseverance to keep fighting was amazing.”
When Joe’s tumor was labeled inoperable by a hospital in Bay City, where he was from, he came to Henry Ford Health System’s Hermelin Brain Tumor Center for a second opinion. Instantly, Joe felt a connection with his care team, led by James Snyder, D.O., and Adam Robin, M.D.
“I am so grateful for the amazing care that my son received and for the love and warmth that all of the staff showed Joe and the family,” says Teri. “Every time we went for treatment, Joe said ‘we have to make the rounds and say hi to everyone.’ They became a part of our family.”
Even through the difficult months of treatment, Joe spread humor and joy. One day, during an HBTC lab tour event, Joe introduced himself to Steven Kalkanis, M.D., then medical director of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery, and Co-Director of the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute (and now CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group and Chief Academic Officer) this way: “Hi, I’m Joe Greene and I am kind of a big deal around here.”
It was this bubbly personality and tenacity that endeared him to HBTC staff as well. In December 2019, Joe’s family was selected as one of the department’s Adopt-A-Family recipients. That holiday season, HBTC staff showered Joe’s family with gifts, including clothing for Joe, as well as games, puzzles and more that they could do together while Joe was in treatment.
Game On Cancer also helped the family as Joe received treatment. Although Teri had worked for Comerica Bank for 30 years, she had to quit her job in 2019 to help care for Joe. At first, she and her family were hesitant to accept assistance, concerned that others needed it more. But when the bills became hard to manage, GOC assisted with two car payments to ensure reliable transportation to and from appointments. It also provided the family a Kroger gift card to help purchase healthy groceries.
Game On Cancer also did something special for Joe, a lifelong Detroit Lions fan: they invited him, his mother, father and grandmother to the 2018 GOC Field Day event. The family drove two hours from Bay City to attend and had fun together meeting Lions players, enjoying food and entertainment and seeing Ford Field.
Tragically, after a valiant and difficult 22-month battle, Joe passed on January 28, 2020. Despite her family’s devastating loss, Teri is grateful for the support they received during Joe’s treatment.
“Thanks to GOC donors and the HBTC team, we received some much-needed relief during our most difficult time,” says Teri. “We felt we weren’t alone in this battle. It was incredible to know there were people that didn’t even know us but who cared for us, who were willing to support us during this difficult time.”
And Joe will continue to help other patients as well. Before he passed away, he donated a portion of his tumor to the HBTC tumor bank for research, and the knowledge gleaned from it will provide valuable insights that could help future cancer patients. Joe Greene’s loving legacy for helping people lives on.
Team Kevybear Shows Gratitude by Giving Back
In 2016, Kevin Yagley was undergoing his first treatment for cancer when he was prescribed a supplement his doctor said could help speed up recovery from surgery. Unfortunately, he learned that it would not be covered by insurance—and that it was also very expensive. Kevin and his wife Khristal, who have three children, were worried that they might not be able to afford this critical medicine—until their Henry Ford Health System social worker stepped in.
“Ted told us about Game On Cancer and said that GOC would cover the cost completely. I was speechless,” says Khristal.
The medication helped Kevin as he began his road to recovery, and he and Khristal were so grateful for the help that they decided they wanted to give back too. In 2017, the family started Kevybear, a GOC fundraising team, to assist other individuals and families going through similar struggles.
“We fundraise for GOC because we know the impact it can have on a family,” says Khristal. “Our world was turned upside down and we didn’t know how certain things were going to be taken care of. We have a big support group of family and friends but sometimes you still feel so lost. GOC helped us with bills, food and peace of mind.”
This year, given the challenges posed by COVID-19 and its ensuing economic impact, Khristal says fundraising for GOC can make an even bigger difference for cancer patients in our communities.
“Today there is more of a risk for those with compromised immune systems which can cause bigger issues for health,” she says. “It is going to be a challenge, but we are up for it.”
Khristal also appreciates the friends and fellow GOC participants she’s met as a fundraiser throughout the last four years. She hopes that the help families receive from GOC will give them the strength to continue on in their cancer journey—and to know that they are not alone.
“As a GOC participant, I want to give others peace of mind and want them to know that there are people that have been where they are, whether they’re the patient, the child or the caregiver...and that it will be ok,” she says.
Game On Cancer delivered over 25,000 meals to our most vulnerable, home-bound cancer patients and their families during the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. We were proud to help ease this burden during such difficult times. See the story here!
Mike Mallory was first diagnosed with cancer by accident. In 2006, when he and his family were living in Arizona, he visited the hospital because he wasn’t feeling well. There, doctors discovered that Mike’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was high—he had prostate cancer. Mike immediately began radiation therapy, which caused him to lose muscle strength and develop a pulmonary embolism in his lung.
Though the treatment succeeded at lowering Mike’s PSA level, it lowered his energy which he needed to do his job. Mike sought out a homeopathic treatment to help with that, but unfortunately, that treatment raised his PSA levels again—and jeopardized his recovery.
In 2015 Mike moved to Michigan, where he has received several treatments aimed at controlling his PSA level and battling his cancer. Unfortunately, after one treatment, Mike had an extremely rare allergic reaction, which led to a heart attack.
After his heart attack, Mike felt very depressed. He couldn’t work, and he needed help but was not sure where to turn. Thankfully, his former sister-in-law told him about Game On Cancer through Henry Ford Health System, and he connected with a social worker.
The social worker, along with GOC, helped turn things around for Mike. GOC helped with three car payments so Mike could get to and from his medical appointments on time. GOC also assisted with several utility bills until he could get back on his feet.
“I have always been very proud of taking care of myself and my family,” says Mike. “It didn’t feel right at first taking assistance, but it helped so much. I started crying right away and felt a huge relief off my shoulders.”
Today, Mike is grateful for the help he received, and has a renewed sense of hope in his battle. “I am so appreciative to all Game On Cancer donors. What you did, and the funds you raised or donated made a huge difference in my life.”
Cancer is already a dreaded word. For Amanda Celeste, who has had cancer twice, the disease also meant the pain of explaining to her children why she couldn’t do the things she used to do with them.
"Being an individual going through cancer is excruciating, but being a parent going through cancer is heart-wrenching," says Amanda.
A licensed speech pathologist, she received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2015. Expenses for treatment began to add up and become another burden her family had to bear—until Game On Cancer stepped in.
"Never in a million years did I think I would be enduring cancer for a second time and placing what I feel is an unabridged financial and emotional burden on my family," she says. "The graciousness and judgment-free nature assisted me in realizing that is okay to ask for help."
Game On Cancer helped alleviate Amanda's anxiety by paying for household bills like water, heat and electricity while she received treatment. And not only did Game On Cancer assist with bills, but it also offered support to Amanda's three young children. Through the Game On Cancer Kid's Club, Amanda's children received books, journals, gift cards and opportunities to participate in activities, which helped the whole family get through a difficult time.
"Through the graciousness of Game On Cancer donors and the Kid's Club, my children were also able to feel much-needed relief," says Amanda. "I could see the excitement come back to their little faces."
Amanda is grateful for the support everyone in her family received—children and adults alike. "Because of Game On Cancer donors, we were once more able to experience the joy and relief that is so difficult to find," she says.
Today Amanda is thriving—she even ran in the Detroit Free Press Marathon this past October—and she thanks Game On Cancer for the part we played in helping her family through a very hard period.
"GOC has made a difference in our lives, and for that we will continue to be deeply grateful. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you."
When Michael Hester was diagnosed with kidney and lung cancer, he knew that in order to fully concentrate on his recovery, he would need to stop working as he underwent difficult treatments. But while taking time off would give Michael the energy he needed for his battle ahead, it unfortunately meant an uncertain financial situation for him and his family. And that, of course, meant additional stress.
"My wife and I were very worried about how we were going to pay our bills," says Michael.
Thankfully, Game On Cancer, which directly supports patients, innovative research and complementary programs, stepped in to help Michael's family keep their power on and pay their rent for three months while he was in treatment. It also supplied Michael with Kroger gift cards to ensure that he had plenty of healthy, fresh food to cook so that his body got the important nutrients it needed during this critical time. When Michael had trouble getting to crucial appointments at the hospital, Game On Cancer even put gas in Michael's car so that he could.
"Receiving assistance from Game On Cancer relieved a lot of stress for us and allowed me to focus on getting through treatment," says Michael. "We are so thankful for all the help we received."
Each year, hundreds of Game On Cancer participants form teams and raise money for people in active treatment for cancer. For some patients, support from Game On Cancer can make the difference between regression and recovery. Patients like Michael, who credit Game On Cancer team members with helping to save his life.
"I just want to thank all of the donors from the bottom of our hearts. Their helped get us through some tough times," he says.
Meet James Craig
He had retired from his career as a painter when he found out he had lung cancer. He depends on transportation assistance from Game On Cancer to get to and from his treatments at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.
He told us that those rides meant he "wasn't stressed because I knew that I had a ride. There was no worrying about how I was going to get to my appointments. The transportation was easy to use and reliable."
James is grateful for each and every Game On Cancer FUNdraiser, who goes out of their way to contribute to a cause that helped him so much. THANK YOU, James, for taking time to share your story with us and for the monthly donation you send to us to give back.
Imagine having to choose between life-saving medication—and keeping your house.
For Mary Lesner and her husband Jim, that was the unfortunate choice as Mary battled breast cancer and Jim managed his diabetes. The couple, married for forty years, found themselves struggling to pay for expensive medications on top of normal household bills as Mary underwent chemotherapy.
That's where Game On Cancer stepped in, helping to pay the Lesner's winter tax bill so they would not be in danger of losing their home. Game On Cancer also assisted with a car payment so that Mary could get to and from critical chemotherapy appointments on her road to recovery.
"Thank you to Game On Cancer fundraisers," says Mary. "We are very grateful to you and we very much appreciate what you do."
The support the Lesner's received from Game On Cancer enabled them to pay for other important things, like Jim's insulin and medication to help Mary with the side effects of chemotherapy. It also ensured that the couple could keep their heat on during the long winter months.
"Your support gave me peace of mind as I went through chemo," says Mary.
Game On Cancer Helps Tanya Hudgens Stay Positive While Fighting Skin Cancer
Tanya Hudgens has been dealing with skin cancer for nearly 20 years—all while on a fixed income with two children still at home. Tanya's illness makes it hard to work fulltime, so she sometimes struggles to pay for her necessary treatments while affording the expenses of everyday life.
"Cancer means that my budget gets tight, and I need a little help sometimes to get through it," she says.
Recently, Game On Cancer helped pay Tanya’s light bill for two months to help her out of a particularly rough patch.
"It means a lot to my family to receive help from Game On Cancer," she says.
To Tanya, receiving support from Game On Cancer means more than just keeping her lights on—it means a lot less stress, too.
"Knowing that there are awesome donors out there who want to help in a time of need... That's a great honor," she says.
It also gives Tanya the strength she needs to keep up her battle.
"I've been going through so much with this cancer, but I will never give up," she says. "I will continue to fight and stay positive with every treatment I receive. Thank you."