Musicians Against Cancer To Play At Celebration of Hope

If you’ve traveled through Fredonia and imagined you heard the familiar sounds of Fleetwood Mac or Little Big Town floating across the fields of one of the many local farms, you (probably) weren’t hearing things. You may have been catching some of the many popular songs covered by the Fredonia-based band Musicians Against Cancer (MAC) during one of their weekly practices.

MAC is a five-person band that covers just about everything and offer something for everyone, from classic rock to ’80s hits. On Friday, June 21, they’re traveling up to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus to bring musical entertainment to the guests of this year’s Celebration of Hope.
“We normally play for local events in the Fredonia/Dunkirk area, but when we found out about Celebration of Hope, we wanted to make a special trip to Buffalo,” says Kristin Britz, one of the band’s founding members.

MAC was formed in 2011 when founding members Kristin and John Yerico were playing for their church in Fredonia. John wanted to form a band, but in a way where they could give back to others. They brought in fellow founding member Don Hinman and over the years have added two more members.

If you haven’t already guessed it by the band’s name, the events often have a connection to cancer.  MAC performs at no cost for cancer-related events and benefits, and a portion of their gig fees for other events like festivals or picnics is used to help people in need.

MAC established a fund with the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation to manage these donations, which are later used to provide financial assistance to families in the Dunkirk/Fredonia area who are facing the challenges that can come with a cancer diagnosis.

This past summer they gave two $500 checks to families with children battling cancer and have also helped adult patients in overcoming financial burdens. “They can use it for medical bills or whatever they want. We know they’re going through a really tough time,” Kristin explains.

All of MAC’s members have lost a loved one to cancer, and two of members are survivors themselves. Kristin saw up close how cancer affected her immediate family. Her sister Deena was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma at the age of 27. Kristin says she battled for more than six years before passing away at the age of 34, leaving behind her husband and four young children.

“I know cancer treatments have come a long way, but at the time there wasn’t much more they could offer her,” Kristin says as if wondering how things could have been different had Deena been diagnosed today. “But I do remember her and my parents saying how nice everyone was at Roswell and being so appreciative for the care she received.”

All five band members are excited to make the trip to Buffalo this summer, and the band’s leaders say it’s a special opportunity to “give back the precious gifts God has given us.” They’re all about making their performance fun and look forward to entertaining Celebration of Hope guests with a mix of country, blues, and classic and Southern rock that everyone can dance and sing along to.

“We share the same passion as all who attend – finding a cure. Together, one cause, one theme and one song at a time, we can help change the approach.

“Happiness promotes hope, then faith – and love, always.”

MAC will be performing at the Celebration of Hope at UB’s North Campus on Friday, June 21, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP to our Celebration of Hope Facebook event for future updates.

In Honor Of Her Sister: Meet This Year’s Celebration of Hope Torch Lighter

According to Michelle Dvorak-Held, her older sister Janice was an artistic woman with a determined nature.
“Even in sickness, Jan wanted to give something back to other patients,” Michelle said.

Janice was diagnosed with glioblastoma in May 2012 and began treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
During her radiation treatment, Janice noticed that some patients walked home alone. She wanted to give back to those at Roswell Park so she started playing piano in the lobby, which eventually led to the installment of the victory bell.

“She knew patients had a fighting spirit and they needed something positive to celebrate with. Something that was loud and everyone could share.”

At this year’s Celebration of Hope, Michelle will be lighting the torch in honor of Janice.

Janice’s Diagnosis

In May 2012, Michelle was moving her son home from college for the summer when she missed several calls from Janice. Eventually, she connected with Janice’s husband, Mike, who explained that Janice had a severe headache. Because their mother survived a brain aneurysm when Michelle was seven, the family was immediately worried about a brain injury.

Mike took Janice to a local hospital and a CT scan was performed, but the scan was inconclusive due to the field being obscured by blood. Janice was admitted to the hospital. Her condition declined and she underwent brain surgery. By the end of the night, doctors had removed a tumor from the right side of her brain.

“Janice woke up from the surgery a fighter, demanding that any pain meds be discontinued as she did not need them,” Michelle said, “She was in good spirits, and we were all amazed that she could snap out of brain surgery so quickly.”

Eventually, Janice completed 33 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, followed by a clinical trial, all at Roswell Park.

When Janice completed her radiation treatment at Roswell Park, she wanted to celebrate her victory over cancer. Smiles and hugs all around were not enough. The victory over radiation needed to be something big and boisterous, according to Michelle. Enter the concept of a Victory Bell.

The Bell and The Ride

Janice  wanted to bring comfort to other patients and felt that people should have a way to celebrate the end of radiation, chemotherapy and the end of cancer running their lives.

“The Victory Bell is musical, like her” Michelle said. “She wanted people to rejoice in another victory over cancer and to bring smiles to the caregivers.”

Additionally, Janice also started participating in The Ride For Roswell. Her first experience was in 2015 when she attended the Celebration of Hope. Then in 2017, the sisters created a Ride Day team. Janice came up with the name and Michelle formed Team Grey Matters. In 2018, their team had fourteen people and raised over $21,000 for Roswell Park.

In Her Memory

In September 2018, Janice passed away from brain cancer. Glioblastoma patients survive on average for only eighteen months, but Janice lived an incredible six years after her diagnosis that Michelle attributes to cancer research and clinical trials.
On Friday, June 21, Michelle will climb the steps to the torch at the Celebration of Hope and kick off Ride Weekend in honor of her sister.

“The Celebration of Hope was Janice’s absolute favorite part of The Ride. She loved the Friday night activities and especially enjoyed when the Peloton arrived. To be able to light the torch in her honor, on behalf of our team, and to bring awareness to cancer at an event Janice treasured is a tremendous honor.”

How Ride Donations Help Doctors Identify More Effective Treatments

With The Ride less than a month away, it’s always important to remember why we get on our bikes and ride – to help end cancer. The impact our riders, donors, volunteers and sponsors have is incredible. Yesterday, our friend Adam Benigni at WGRZ-Channel 2 shared a story that highlights how donations to The Ride have helped Roswell Park to provide an innovative diagnostic test to patients that is helping doctors identify targeted, more effective treatment options. To see the full story, click below.