When Kathleen O’Neil was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2009, she knew she had a difficult road ahead of her, and that her physical fight was only part of the journey.
A Salamanca, New York native, O’Neil was diagnosed with leukemia at age 26 and went through two and a half years of chemotherapy at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. While there, she learned her white blood cell count would drop significantly, which would weaken her immune system and make her very susceptible to illness. O’Neil was advised against hugging and kissing her family members during a time in her life when she needed them the most.
Her fight against the disease proved to be as emotionally painful and exhausting as it was physically – a battle that is all too familiar to those fighting cancer or other life-altering illnesses. “As I was going through treatment at Roswell, I knew I wanted to do something bigger, better and more powerful than myself,” O’Neil explained. “We’ve spent the last 10 years raising money for cancer research, as well as for patients and families for their hardships during their cancer journey.”
O’Neil founded the non-profit organization, Gotta Kiss Cancer Goodbye (GKCG), that continues to grow every year, and will soon be hosting the 7th Annual Gotta Kiss Cancer Goodbye Golf Tournament at Cardinal Hills Golf Course on July 13 in Randolph, New York.
O’Neil, who now calls Buffalo and Ellicottville home, is excited to celebrate eight years in remission (and to enjoy the hugs and kisses of her family) and is looking forward to another fun golf tournament. Randolph has a special place in O’Neil’s heart, as she grew up nearby and has several family members who now call Randolph home. “It’s a really fun day for a great cause,” she said. “We cap it at 144 participants, and every year, we’re full!”
Registration for the four-person scramble begins at noon, with tee-off at 1pm. The fundraiser also includes dinner, basket raffles and auctions, which golfers and non-golfers can participate in. The Randolph Volunteer Fire Department will be doing a 50/50 golf ball drop on the course, “which was a big hit last year,” said O’Neil.
This year’s proceeds will again benefit cancer research and cancer patients and their families in need of financial support. O’Neil is also looking forward to introducing GKCG’s latest endeavor with golfers, the Kiss Company.
“This is a new venture that we’re working on,” O’Neil explained. “We’re transitioning the focus from solely oncology to supporting people who are going on difficult journeys, whether it’s a journey with cancer or another kind of illness. My father was diagnosed with ALS, so he’s really been my strength and inspiration to want to help people going through all kinds of difficulties.”
The goal of the Kiss Company is to offer self-care services to those in need of healing. “We’d like to offer people a personal, healing touch treatment in the comfort of their own homes or partner with local salons and spas to offer massage therapy, hand massages, foot massages, mini manicures or pedicures for women.” Currently, Ellicottville Oasis Spa has partnered with GKCG, and O’Neil is hoping to work with more local businesses. O’Neil invites those interested in partnering with the Kiss Company - especially nail technicians and licensed massage therapists - to contact O’Neil at 716-984-1128.
Individuals in the community will be able to contact the Kiss Company to “send a kiss” in the form of a personal spa treatment to someone in need of healing. The Kiss Mobile can bring that kind of care directly to them if they are unable to visit a partner spa. “My brother-in-law put it really well,” said O’Neil of GKCG’s expanding mission. “A lot has happened in our lives during the past 10 years since we launched GKCG, and a lot will continue to happen. As we evolve, we want to help even more people along the way.”
O’Neil invites all to participate in the Gotta Kiss Cancer Goodbye golf tournament, attend the dinner or sponsor a hole. To learn more about the tournament and GKCG, visit gottakisscancergoodbye.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also search Gotta Kiss Cancer Goodbye on Facebook. O’Neil extends her sincere gratitude to Port X Logistics, Union Concrete, Randolph Auto Supply, and the many other local business and donors who continue to support the tournament and GKCG each year.