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Buffalo Gears Up for a Community Hockey Game

Buffalo is, without a doubt, a hockey town! We are packed with thousands of Sabres fans, bar leagues, hockey moms lugging youth hockey bags all over the region and, of course, the record breaking 40 gladiators from the 2017 11 Day Power Play event. These insanely generous (emphasis on insane) men accomplished the insurmountable task of playing the longest continuous hockey game on record and helping to raise over $1.2M for cancer research in the meantime.

Founder Mike Lesakowski, Ambassador Emmett Jakubowski and his brother Liam are all smiles at the first skate last week

Last summer’s 11 Day Power Play Event was the mastermind of Amy & Mike Lesakowski, fueled by merging their passion for hockey and fighting cancer. Amy, a cancer survivor herself and Mike, who’s mother passed away from lung cancer, created the event in the hope of making a difference. The founders, and the 40 men who endured 11 grueling days of continuous hockey, not only created an incredible event to raise money and awareness for cancer research, they also managed to capture the hearts of the community through their efforts. When the event wrapped up, the Lesakowskis and their board discovered they overwhelmingly surpassed their million dollar goal and knew they had more fight in them. While taking a much deserved rest on the shores of Lake Erie, Mike and Amy came up with a plan to keep the momentum going in 2018, by involving the incredible Buffalo community. Hence, the 11 Day Power Play Community Shift evolved! The event returns to HARBORCENTER July 5th-15th, 2018, which is free and open to the public.

Team Captains for the 2018 11 Day Power Play Community Shift gathered at Harbor Center last Thursday.

In 2017, the 11 Day Power Play consisted of 2 teams of 20 guys playing a continuous hockey game, along with motivating musical entertainment, cheering fans, over 60 generous sponsors, and unbelievable support from local restaurants to keep them well fed. The encouraging support from the community prompted the founders to create a new iteration of the event for 2018 that involves more of the amazing Buffalo region with approximately 120 teams, skating four hour shifts. The response to the call for teams exceeded expectations and currently has a waitlist to participate. The teams are made up of approximately 1,800 male and female players of all ages and incredibly, the teams are well matched to play within their skill levels. The ages range from 10 to over 50 years old, but their mission is unified in gearing up to have fun and fight cancer, as all 1,800 players have a cancer story close to their heart. Each team has a fundraising goal and each player has a personal one – the event is already off to an incredible start. The 11 Day volunteers are terrific in helping the players with their individual website pages, sharing and monitoring their fundraising efforts. Some teams are already close to surpassing their goals, which speaks volumes about the support within our region.

Emmett Jakubowski, 11 Day Power Play Ambassador and Team Captain

Because the 11 Day Power Play Foundation and upcoming event are powered by a group of community volunteers, not an institution, all support goes to the bottom line. There is one part time staff member monitoring the effort with the dedicated 6 board members and the recruited volunteers. The 2018 event not only involves the community but is expanding its support for the need within it. This year’s Community Shift will support Roswell Park, Make a Wish Foundation, and Camp Good Days. The founders felt strongly about supporting more organizations that go beyond research and offer joy to so many suffering from cancer or other life threatening diseases. The Event Ambassador and the 11 Day’s very own miracle on ice, Emmett Jakubowski, has benefited from all three organizations. In 2017, this incredible young man got back on the ice for the first time after enduring a bone marrow transplant to skate with the 40 original team members. This year, Emmett will serve as the 11 Day Ambassador again along with captaining his own team, which consists of some more survivors. Another team captain, 12 year old Ethan Kane, heard about the opportunity and wanted to get involved as an integral part of his Bar Mitzvah. A requirement of his process is to volunteer for something that rights a wrong – he chose the 11 Day Community Shift. Ethan is the captain of a team comprised of half classmates and half hockey mates from his travel team. The vigor and dedication of such young supporters to help others through this hockey experience is beyond inspirational.

The fantastic mix of teams tackle one major part of the community fundraising effort; the other components of raising $1M comes from support from local businesses, musicians and the public attendance over the 11 days from July 5-15, 2018. In 2017, 60 local companies stepped up to generously support the fundraising goal. The 2018 sponsorship levels have been posted, with many already on board. So far the Buffalo Sabres, Excelsior Orthopaedics, Crowley Webb & Associates, Clevermethod, Lamar, IMPACT Performance, NOCO Energy, Buffalo Rehab Group, Darien Lake, The Greenfields, ComputerSearch Payroll Services, and Rosina Foods have signed on as sponsors. Such support truly adds to the meaning of community for this upcoming event because, unfortunately, everyone has been affected by cancer in some way. Additionally, the national recognition of the 11 Day Power Play adds another benefit for the local and regional sponsors aligning with the event.

There are many ways to sponsor in 2018, whether it be a Presenting Sponsor or a Team Shift Sponsor, all are important to making the event successful! The 11 Day Community Shift is also welcoming some unique support in the form of entertainment. Local restaurants have lined up to fill bellies and musicians have volunteered a few chords to pump up the teams and entertain the crowds throughout some of the 260 plus hours of skating. Much more is needed and welcomed. DJ’s or live rock, punk, reggae, jazz… all are welcome and some equipment will even be provided on site for the convenience of impromptu music and fun. Contact Sara Shumacher at sara@11daypowerplay.com for information about how to get involved.

The 11 Day Power Play Community Shift is a fundraiser but greatly focused on the community coming together to raise awareness for those fighting, while remembering those we have lost. The festivities are just getting started. All are welcome to attend the official launch party at Thin Man Brewery on Thursday, March 22, 2018 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. HARBORCENTER is open and free to the public for all to watch and participate during the 11 days in July. The Buffalo Community is one like no other, so follow the website and social media for updates on supporting events – follow the 11 day schedule and see how you can get involved.

Written by Kristine Hornung-Pottle

Kristine Hornung-Pottle

Kristine Hornung Pottle relocated back to Buffalo from Seattle, where she owned and operated The Wandering Cafe, LLC for twelve years (a catering and events company she began in Buffalo twenty-five years ago). She is currently the COO for Buffalo's echo Art Fair. As an experienced chef and independent event coordinator, Kristine contributes to Buffalo Rising occasionally.

View All Articles by Kristine Hornung-Pottle
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