By John Witkowski
In New York and throughout the nation, community banks are deeply involved in their communities through economic development, civic organizations and philanthropic activities. Whether it involves youth programs, senior citizen projects, health-related programs or a myriad of other initiatives, the local community bank is generally in the thick of things: providing financial support and making bank officers, directors and employees available to lend their experience, support, leadership and expertise.
For these reasons, the Independent Bankers Association of New York State (IBANYS) believes the “Cure the Blue” program is particularly deserving of our industry’s support. Cure the Blue, sponsored by the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation, will allow New Yorkers to participate in a comprehensive effort to promote prostate cancer awareness, prevention and research with local hospitals and health care providers in our state.
Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy in American men and the second most leading cause of deaths from cancer after lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates, approximately 238,590 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in 2013 and approximately 29,720 died from the disease. It is estimated that two men are diagnosed with this disease every five minutes.
Last spring, IBANYS launched a partnership with the Bills Foundation. Our support is something we are taking very seriously. An effort of this magnitude is long overdue, and we commend the Bills Alumni for taking the lead. We are asking our New York community banks to join us.
One member bank already on board is Lake Shore Savings Bank, a community-oriented financial institution originally chartered as a savings and loan association in New York in 1891. Lake Shore is headquartered in Dunkirk, New York. It serves Chautauqua and Erie counties through 11 full service branch offices and 16 ATMs. Lake Shore’s President and CEO Dan Reininga joined former Bills Coach and NFL Hall-of-Famer Marv Levy (another prostate cancer survivor) at a recent Cure the Blue event. Lake Shore plans a branch-wide fundraising effort during September.
“Our organization understands the importance of this effort,” Reininga said. “We are proud to partner with the Bills Alumni Foundation and IBANYS. The exciting thing about this is that it's going to be a national campaign at some point. It's very exciting and we're very proud. It's what Lake Shore is all about – putting people first.” Lake Shore is selling Cure the Blue ribbon pins in their branches.
Furthermore, a number of IBANYS member community banks are planning walkathons and 5K runs to support the program, and Tioga State Bank President and CEO Bob Fisher will be meeting with representatives of the Bills Foundation and IBANYS to discuss potential ideas and plans.
Former Bills star and Alumni Foundation member Booker Edgerson (a two-time prostate cancer survivor) and Foundation President and fellow Bills alumni Ed Rutkowski have graciously expressed appreciation for IBANYS’ support. The Bills Alumni Foundation was founded in 1999 and is comprised of past Bills players that have left an imprint on society during their football careers and want to continue molding society in a positive manner. Edgerson hopes to eventually make Cure the Blue similar to the highly successful “pink” programs for breast cancer research.
The 24 Prostate Cancer Project (named in tribute to Booker’s uniform number with the Bills) has been strategically developed to raise financial support for the program. Participants are asked to contribute $24 a day for 24 days – a total contribution of $576.
I hope that more New York community banks – and businesses affiliated with them – will join us to help Cure the Blue score a big victory over prostate cancer. Anyone interested in participating should email me at Johnw@IBANYS.net.■
John Witkowski is president and CEO of the Independent Bankers Association of New York State. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (518) 436-4646.