Over 1.5 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. While doctors treat their patients, a team of teens from Cardinal O'Hara High School is cooking for a cure.
For the past five years Allyson Nemeth has organized a Cooking for Cancer Club, which prepares and sells baked goods and pasta sauce for Courage for Carly, an organization that raises money for pediatric cancer research and family support programs at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
"Me and my friend, Jessica Flash, were having a sleepover and we were talking about how our families had recently been affected by cancer," Nemeth said. "We wanted to do something about it. We really love baking and we decided that we would gather up some of our classmates, go to people's houses and bake baked goods and sell them around to the houses to raise money for Carly's Club at Roswell Park."
That venture netted $1,000 for the charity. Founded by 8-year-old Carly Colard Cottone Carly's Club, now called Courage for Carly Fund, supports programs to make life more manageable for children dealing with cancer. The program takes kids to ball games and Build-a-Bear. "To help give them back their childhood," explained Nemeth.
During their second year, Nemeth and Flash began hosting a Pasta Sauce Off competition at the LaSalle Yacht Club in Niagara Falls. Visitors sample and vote for their favorite sauce and the top three tastiest receive a Wooden Spoon Award. The event has become an officially sanctioned event for Roswell Park.
The Sauce Off has grown in recent years to include raffles and silent auctions with prizes donated by local businesses. Items include a hockey stick autographed by Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly, a goalie stick signed by gold-medal Olympian Jim Craig from the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" hockey team, a signed photo of the Buffalo Bills, a Kate Spade purse, a brewery tour and a makeup makeover party with spa products.
The annual event has raised nearly $28,000 for the Courage for Carly Fund.
"It's really exploded in the past few years," said Nemeth.
Nemeth is no stranger to helping others. She calls it her passion. The 15-year-old sophomore volunteers with Miracle League on Grand Island & WNY working with kids living with disabilities.
"It feels so amazing that I can make a difference in a kid's life, who doesn't know anything else other than sitting in a hospital bed," she said.
"It feels good. You know the money is going directly to the kids, so it feels nice," added Chase Luthringer, one of the many team members involved.
The kids they help have shown their appreciation during one of their excursions.
"It was funny," Nemeth recalled. "When we gave the check for the last year back in August, two of the girls made us Build-a-Bears. I keep that in my room."
This year, the fourth annual Cooking for Cancer Pasta Sauce Off will take place Saturday, March 10, from 3 to 7 p.m. at LaSalle Yacht Club, Niagara Falls, with the sauce contest, baked goods, silent auction and raffles. The family-friendly event is open to all.
For information, to take part in the Pasta Challenge, to donate or volunteer, call Kim Nemeth, 716-481-3746.