NIAGARA FALLS – The Buffalo Bills will face the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, but before they take the field, players will travel to Niagara Falls to fight a different opponent.
More than a dozen Bills players and their families will come to the Cataract City on Friday to raise breast cancer awareness with a downtown get-together open to the public.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Scott Chandler and others will help form a “living ribbon” of supporters stretching across the border to Canada, and the falls will be illuminated pink before a 1980s pop star performs a free outdoor concert.
Fans are encouraged to sign up for the event and join the Bills as they stretch across the Rainbow Bridge, and all the fun, of course, is for a cause – early detection of breast cancer.
“Cancer touches all of our lives,” said Mary M. Owen, the Bills’ executive vice president of strategic planning. “There are players whose families have been affected, there are staff members whose families have been affected, so it’s something where we can use the Buffalo Bills platform to really get the message out and raise awareness of early detection of breast cancer and also celebrate survivorship.”
For $30, attendees will receive a pink designer scarf, a T-shirt and a reserved spot on the bridge. Check-in for the living ribbon will begin at 5 p.m., and the event will begin at 7. To register, visit buffalobills.com. All participants must present a passport or enhanced license.
After the ceremony, pop star Belinda Carlisle will perform a free downtown concert on Mayor Michael O’Laughlin Drive outside the Hard Rock Cafe. As lead singer for the all-female rock band the Go-Go’s and later as a solo artist, Carlisle belted the ’80s anthem “We Got the Beat.”
A few blocks down, the ECMC Lifeline Foundation mammography bus, which includes two digital mammography machines, will be parked on Old Falls Street for those who want to receive information about early diagnosis and treatment. A pink PODS storage unit will include breast cancer facts and photos of survivors.
Detecting breast cancer before it’s too late is a theme in the campaign for breast cancer awareness, a National Football League initiative highlighted by pink items of apparel worn by the players.
Never before has such a large-scale event come together across the national border in Niagara Falls to spotlight breast cancer awareness, organizers said. “It is a gem we have in this region,” Owen said. “We thought, why don’t we just come together and do this as a group effort to make this an even bigger impact?”
For Alissa Chandler, wife of Scott Chandler, the cause is personal. She recalls when doctors found a tumor in her mother nine years ago: “It was devastating. I crawled on the floor and bawled like baby, because cancer is a scary word, and nobody likes to hear it.”
After six weeks of radiation, her mother was cancer-free. The key was early detection, and realizing that no woman is too young to get checked.
“If we decided to put it off a couple more years, the thing might have grown, and she might not be there today,” Chandler said. “Because she was in there and they caught it so soon, I think she’s got a real shot of beating this for good.”