Kelly Family Honored for Cancer Advocacy at 25th Anniversary All Star Night, Roswell Park’s Signature Gala

Event raised more than $500,000 for RPCI’s cancer research and patient-care programs
Monday, November 9, 2015

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Kelly family — Jim, Jill, Erin and Camryn — was honored Saturday for their incredible cancer awareness and advocacy efforts at the 25th anniversary All Star Night, Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s signature black-tie gala.

Jim Kelly, former Buffalo Bill and Hall of Fame quarterback, was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2013. Since then, he and his family have openly shared their battle through national media interviews and social media, helping to spread cancer awareness and inspire countless patients and their families to be “Kelly Tough.”

“The Katherine Anne Gioia Inspiration Award is named in honor of my daughter, who bravely fought cancer when she was just 4 years old. During her battle, we learned the importance of facing cancer together as a family, and that is exactly what the Kellys have done. They have supported each other through every challenge, and by sharing their story, they’ve inspired others to do the same,” said Anne Gioia, Co-founder of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, which raises funds for Roswell Park. “The Kellys had a guiding motto throughout their journey: ‘make a difference today for someone who is fighting tomorrow,’ and that is truly what this award is all about.”

Saturday's event was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of All Star Night, presented by M&T Bank, and featured a theme of “Come Fly With Us,” which transported more than 1,000 guests back to the golden age of Pan Am travel.

All Star Night also marks the anniversary of the Alliance Foundation, which was founded by Anne and Donna Gioia 25 years ago. Candace Johnson, PhD, President and CEO, Roswell Park, announced for the first time tonight that Roswell Park’s new pediatric center will be named the Katherine, Anne and Donna Gioia Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center in honor of all the family has done for the fight against cancer. A mosaic portraying the family, created by local artist Ani Hoover, was unveiled at the event that will be placed in the new center when it opens in 2017.

The event, which raised more than $500,000 for Roswell Park, also included recognition of Khurshid Guru, MD, Roswell Park’s Director of Robotic Surgery, who received the Thomas B. Tomasi, MD, PhD, Hope Award. The award is given out each year to a physician who has brought significant hope to cancer patients through scientific achievements. Dr. Guru has pioneered robotic surgery at Roswell Park and is regarded as one of the top robotic surgeons in the world.

“Dr. Guru is known for his enthusiasm, energy and out-of-the-box thinking, and he is one of the most innovative people I have ever known,” said Dr Johnson. “By bringing robotic surgery to Roswell Park, he is helping to improve the lives of our patients, and he is constantly thinking of new ways to lend a helping hand to individuals both here and around the world.”

Dr. Guru recently made national news for his lifesaving efforts aboard an international fight, where he improvised and created a nebulizer for a child who was having an asthma attack. His compassion is also evident in Kashmir, his homeland, where he has founded the Guru Charitable Foundation to improve education and healthcare in needy rural areas. Dr. Guru’s passion for education extends even further, as he’s also trained more than 300 physicians from around the world in robotic surgery, and established the Junior Robotic Surgery Challenge to expose high school students to the innovative field.

“He doesn’t want to just train all of us to be surgeons. He wants to create the robotic surgeons of the future, and he wants them to come from the high schools of Western York,” said James Mohler, MD, Associate Director and Senior Vice President for Translational Research.

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The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: 

Jessica Bagley, Sr. Communications Coordinator
716-845-1027; jessica.bagley@roswellpark.org