Kathleen O’Neil beat cancer. Diagnosed with Leukemia, she battled the odds until finally pulling through and stomping it into the ground for good. For every heartbreaking story you hear about cancer taking one of our loved ones too soon, you also hear tales of triumph. Stories of people overcoming adversity and chemo and medication and the wicked disease you cringe at the sound of.
While Facebook statuses and texts can lift spirits, they don’t pay the medical bills. So in 2009, O’Neil created her non-for-profit Gotta Kiss Cancer Goodbye, an organization dedicated to assisting those in need around the Western New York area. On Saturday, July 15, Cardinal Hills Golf Course in Randolph, NY will host the 5th Annual Kiss Cancer Goodbye Golf Tournament.
“We wanted to start a foundation to help other families and patients going through treatment,” O’Neil told me. “I, for one, am very fortunate to be able to say I beat cancer. Others aren’t so lucky. So I wanted to take the experience I had been through and use it to do some good.”
The tournament has morphed from a small event to a full-blown party. Golfers have come to expect a good time while also paying tribute to both those who continue to battle and the ones who aren’t with us anymore. Drawing awareness to the cause is one thing, but O’Neil wanted to be able to do more than that.
“Since the first year, we’ve donated close to $20,000 to local families,” she said. “There’s also our Stand Scholarship, which we give to students in the community who are constantly doing good, organizing events or just shedding some light on the fight against cancer.”
Cardinal Hills, a scenic course tucked by Amish country, will soon complete its new 3,200 square foot event center smack-dab in the middle of the course. There’s a built-in kitchen, bathrooms and will be the perfect spot to host an event.
“We’re so excited to be able to use the new event center,” O’Neil said. “There are tons of different games and prizes for people to enter to win. We’ve got a Vegas hole (where golfers can bet), a chipping contest into some oversized lips, and last year we did a helicopter drop - you pay $10 for a ball, and if it’s closest to the pin after dropping out of the chopper then you win. It’s really a great event that’s been well received by everyone who comes to play.”
You can sign up to become a hole sponsor for $100, and if you’re not golfing, an easy $10 donation will get you dinner after the tournament concludes. You can sign up for golf, dinner, or a hole sponsorship on the website at www.gottakisscancergoodbye.org.
“I’m so grateful for everyone in the Southern Tier, where a majority of our funds are raised,” she said. “Keeping the money in the WNY community is very important to me, and I can’t express my gratitude enough for everyone who has helped us make this event the success it is. We’re hoping to be able to unveil a special announcement at the tournament, and just to be able to continue to help those in need.”
For more information on the Kiss Cancer Goodbye tournament, head to the website listed above.