Not too many persons survive pancreatic cancer. Ed Blackburn, a Staten Island varsity hockey coach of St. Peter’s High School Eagles team, is one. He survived. He and his family are giving back through an annual extraordinary fundraising event. On February 9, 2023, a great night of hockey took place between St. Peter’s and St. Joseph-by-the-Sea High Schools to raise funding for the pancreatic cancer research laboratory led by Dr. Despina Siolas, MD, PhD of Weill Cornell Medicine. The “Eagles vs. Vikings” hockey game was held at Staten Island Skating Pavilion in Charleston at 3080 Arthur Hill Rd. Over three hundred persons attended.
Michael Manna was a Guest of Honor and Dr. Despina Siolas was a Special Guest of Honor. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. The diagnosis and therapy of pancreatic cancer are challenging due to often unrecognizable symptoms and late-stage diagnosis.
To support this worthy cause, volunteers went door-to-door, asking local businesses, families, and friends to donate. Unique-themed gift baskets were created and raffled by Mrs. Linda Blackburn and her friends, Dorothy Triano, Karina Liantonio, and Karen Rello of Staten Island. A 50/50 cash raffle was held. The winner donated his winnings back to pancreatic cancer research. An attendee noted small donations from the community are more meaningful than large donations from millionaires who have money to spare and use it as a tax write-off.
Everyone present had their own special reason for attending. Many have family and friends fighting cancer while other shave loved ones who passed away. Middle America united and joined hands to give back to the innovative research conducted by Dr. Despina Siolas.
Ed Blackburn, event organizer, and patient of Dr. Siolas is one of the few persons to survive Stage IV pancreatic cancer. He is back to coaching varsity hockey at St. Peters High School, Staten Island. He has a mission: to give back to society. He is honoring Dr. Siolas who administered a personalized medical treatment combination of immunotherapy and targeted therapy. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be standing here today. Dr. Siolas’ research saved my life,” he said. “We want to do all we can to aid the cause.” The coach is in his 19th season at St. Peters High School. Coach Blackburn is an inspiration to the youth he coaches. His Eagles team won the night’s game.
“It is my honor and privilege to be at this event,” said Dr. Despina Siolas. “I want to thank the family and friends of Coach Ed Blackburn, who are raising awareness and support for pancreatic cancer research. The support raised will fund research into new therapies to help more families and friends. I will continue to work tirelessly to advocate for ALL cancer patients, and make progress towards a cure.”
Dr. Siolas is a graduate of the MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program at Stony Brook University School of Medicine/Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She is an alumnus of St. John’s University, Benjamin Cardozo High School, and William Spyropoulos Day School of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine Church, Bayside, NY. The Siolas Lab is dedicated to investigating the biology underlying gastrointestinal cancers and advancing innovative therapies for cancer patients Her research website can be found at https://siolaslab.weill.cornell.edu/
All proceeds from raffles, the 50-50, and donations will benefit pancreatic cancer research at Weill Cornell medicine. There is still time to donate. All checks should be made out to “St. Peter’s Eagles Hockey Club” and mailed to Coach Blackburn at 40 Maine Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10314.