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Photos by Cait McCarthy
Photos by Cait McCarthy
Side Peace performs at the Fifth Annual Cancer Can't Kill Love Benefit Concert.

“It takes a village and I love this village,” said Meaghan McGoldrick, founder of Cancer Can’t Kill Love, a growing benefit concert geared towards raising cancer awareness as well as funds to help fight the disease.

The Fifth Annual Cancer Can’t Kill Love Benefit Concert, held on Saturday, September 23 at the Leif Bar, 6725 Fifth Avenue, was the event’s greatest success yet.

As of Monday, September 25, the event had raised a whopping $14,274 for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and $1,020 for the Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research, reaching a grand total of $15,294. That number is expected to climb.

To date, Cancer Can’t Kill Love has donated close to $50,000 to cancer research.

McGoldrick, who is also the managing editor at the Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator, was moved as hundreds of attendees enjoyed food, drink, entertainment and raffles at an event whose goal is to put an end to a disease that kills millions — including both her parents.

“It’s been a few days and words still fail me,” she said. “This year’s event was so unbelievably special for so many different reasons. The turnout was incredible. The music was fantastic. Everything went smoothly and there were so many heartwarming tributes and surprises. It was a day of love like no other. That a bunch of 20-somethings can raise upwards of $10,000 in cash alone over just a few hours at a local bar is something I don’t think I’ll ever fully grasp.”

Eight bands performed during the day-long event, including Brandi & The Alexanders, The Hill Bros., Tyler Conroy, Stoop Kids, Denizen, August on Sunday, On the Fifty and Side Peace.

The growth from the first event, held in 2013, shortly after McGoldrick’s mother died, has been both emotional and satisfying for her and all those who volunteered their time and money. “This has been our most successful event, by far,” she said. “Not only did we raise more money than we ever have before, but we raised more awareness. This year’s event touched more people. We had more speakers, told more stories and we’re going global. There was so much love and positive energy in that room. I don’t know how we’re going to top it next year.”

Speakers this year included McGoldrick, Lauren Kelly from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Elise Johansen from Be the Match, and friends Megan Padovano, Brittany Gormley and Jess Gaudioso.

Gormley spoke of her mom’s struggle — at just 26, she lost a three-year-old daughter to a rare form of cancer — and Gaudioso spoke about losing her dad just three weeks ago after a valiant fight with a rare genetic mutation that runs in her family. Padovano — the artist behind this year’s t-shirt design — spoke of how its imagery honors the memory of her aunt Vicky, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer earlier this year.

“Seeing just how much this event truly touched each and every person that walked through those doors stood out the most,” said McGoldrick. “Whether they were stopping by or staying all day, our message of love and hope hit home for so many. All of that coming together was truly inspiring.”

“Everyone has a story when it comes to cancer unfortunately and this year we told a lot more of those,” added Sarah Collins, one of McGoldrick’s closest friends, who served as the event’s emcee. “What made this year a little bit different is I don’t think people were as afraid to tell them because they were able to relate to it.”

Among the highlights of the event were swabs for bone marrow and blood cancer donor matches by Be The Match and a table where people could write letters to two children who have fought or are fighting cancer: 14-year-old Luke Kaahaaina, now cancer-free, and James Lodato, a six-year-old boy from Long Island who is still fighting Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.

The event’s biggest surprise came from the Kaahaaina family, when Luke’s father, David — who flew in from Honolulu, Hawaii for the event — announced during his speech that this time next year, eight more Cancer Can’t Kill Love events will take place around the world in places like California, Hawaii, London and Tokyo.

Photo by Cait McCarthy

Photo by Cait McCarthy

“They will take place under a new name, which was inspired by Cancer Can’t Kill Love, called ‘Cancer Grows Love’ because David wants these co-events to reflect the positive change inspired by CCKL,” McGoldrick explained, stressing that, in the months leading up to this year’s benefit, David was busy finding volunteers across the globe to help pitch in for next year. “I was completely unaware, and completely speechless. There was not a dry eye in the room.”

That surprise was a highlight for more than just McGoldrick.

“One of my favorite moments was finding out that Cancer Can’t Kill love is extending to different locations and we’re growing this big thing,” added August on Sunday drummer Gerard Sullivan, who helps McGoldrick perfect the event each year.

Coincidentally, David won the biggest prize of the evening, a trip to Cancun, courtesy of The Creative Group. He and his daughter were also presented with the event’s first-ever Family of the Year Award.

“We knew from the beginning that we were going to give them that award,” McGoldrick said, stressing that, once asked if Cancer Can’t Kill Love could honor Luke, the Kaahaainas were “all in,” — “but once David started speaking, I realized they had done so much more than any of us could’ve ever imagined.”

Although it was hard work for all involved, McGoldrick is thrilled by the outcome, despite having a heavy heart. “Each year is as hard for me as it is beautiful,” she said. “I miss my parents everyday and doing something like this is big and beautiful and inspiring, but it is also hard and sweaty and, to be frank, sad when you can’t share it with the ones you love most. But I know they’re watching over me and I know that they’re proud. I’m stoked to be able to raise this much money in their memory each and every year.”

“I’ve known Meaghan since we were eight,” added Collins. “Her parents were parents to me. They were always there. It’s powerful to be a part of something like this and have my name even slightly associated with it. I’m so proud of it.”

This year’s sponsors included the Leif Bar, Be the Match, Northfield Bank, the Creative Group, Bridgeside Live, Baya Bar, Red White & Brew, Bean Post Pub, the Coop, Capitol Wrestling, Cait McCarthy Photography, Megan Padovano Design, Conflict Resolution Systems, the Bookmark Shoppe, Alicia Degener, Sabrina DiLeo, Bikram Yoga Bay Ridge, Long’s Wine & Liquor, Brooklyn Ink Tattoo, Yankee Candle, Pinot’s Palette of Dyker Heights, the Wicked Monk, SheSingsWeDance, O’Sullivans Bar, DryBar Williamsburg, Sugar Coated Bakery and Skinflints.

Everything else — from food and decorations to merch and other raffle prizes — was donated by friends and family.

The show ended with a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace,” performed in memory of Yonkers Firefighter Neill Tyndal, who succumbed to 9/11 related cancer on September 19 at the age of 48. The tribute was performed by Side Peace front-man Brian Sears, a current member of the Yonkers Fire Department. Tyndal was laid to rest just one day after Cancer Can’t Kill Love.

McGoldrick’s mother, Joanne, succumbed to Leukemia in 2013 and her father, Butch, to Mesothelioma in 2008.

For more information or to donate, visit www.cancercantkilllove.com.

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