Bills Alumni Foundation gives big boost to the battle against prostate cancer

Jan 25, 2018

Booker Edgerson (right) presents a $100,000 check to Dr. Candace Johnson and Dr. Adam Sumlin of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center from the Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center received a significant boost in funding for prostate cancer research and awareness from some well-known members of the Buffalo sports community.

Alongside fellow players from Buffalo Bills history, 1960s Cornerback Booker Edgerson presented a $100,000 check to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. It’s the largest-ever one-time donation to a single group by the Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation.

Edgerson, the foundation’s president, created its Cure the Blue initiative in 2010 to promote prostate cancer research and expand awareness.

Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation President Booker Edgerson talks about the importance of the Cure the Blue initiative.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

“We need our men to go out and promote prostate cancer awareness,” said Edgerson. “It’s easy as 1-2-3. You’re in and out and you get yourself squared up and you know exactly where you’re coming from.”

The donation is especially meaningful for Edgerson, because he’s a 21-year prostate cancer survivor and hopes the funding will lead to a cure.

“I was diagnosed in ’96 and then I had a reoccurrence in 2012. So it’s a very big day not only for the alumni, but myself as well,” said Edgerson.

The $100,000 will go directly to the team of Dr. Adam Sumlin, Associate Professor of Oncology at Roswell Park. Sumlin said he and his team will use it to develop new biomarkers to detect prostate cancer. He also wants to follow the lead of the Cure the Blue initiative and increase outreach to men in the community – especially in the neighborhood around Roswell.

“Within a five mile radius of this area, a lot of the men have prostate cancer, but they don’t come for screening. So we want to reach out to them,” said Sumlin. “And using the pastors and ministers of a lot of churches, we want to get that organization together so that we can touch the lives of those men and their families.”

Sumlin and his team have already begun outreach efforts in partnership with Cure the Blue, Buffalo-based ManUp, and the international organization Us TOO.

Roswell Park President Dr. Candace Johnson said having sports figures promoting awareness has a significant impact on the work her institution does.

Members of the Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation present a $100,000 check to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

“Here’s a group of former Buffalo Bills, alumni that have stayed in the Buffalo area. So they’re dedicated to the community here, and they’re willing to sort of be an advocate of early detection of prostate cancer. It’s huge because they’re going to connect with people that maybe I could never connect with because of who they are,” said Johnson.

The foundation has given over $2.4 million to local Western New York charities during the past 20 years. Edgerson said Cure the Blue aims to raise $200,000 by next year for additional prostate cancer initiatives.

In an email to WBFO, Joe Browne, a spokesman from the NFL Alumni national headquarters said, “The Buffalo Bills alumni organization always has been a standout among other pro football groups around the country in their generosity, leadership and community service. We congratulate the Bills alumni for their extremely charitable donation to the Roswell Park Cancer Center.”

The American Cancer Society and the Cure the Blue initiative encourage all men age 50 and up to get screened for prostate cancer. Those at higher risk – including African Americans – are encouraged to get screened between age 40 and 45.

Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter at @SAvery131.