Beating cancer with love.
The Sixth Annual Cancer Can’t Kill Love Benefit Concert, an event aimed at raising awareness and money to help fight the disease, will once again take place in southern Brooklyn on a day special to its organizers.
Cancer Can’t Kill Love began in November, 2013, following the death of Managing/Digital Editor of The Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator Meaghan McGoldrick’s mother, Joanne, who succumbed to Acute Myeloid Leukemia just five years after McGoldrick’s father, John Patrick “Butch” McGoldrick, died of asbestos-triggered lung cancer brought on by his work at Ground Zero.
“Cancer Can’t Kill Love was born in the back of a Bay Ridge bar on NFL Sunday,” recalled McGoldrick. “My mother had just died — the second of my two parents to cancer — and my friends had no idea what to do, so they did what they do best — they threw a party.
“My friends’ bands played, their families cooked and they raised about $1,000 to get me back on my feet,” she went on, adding that half of the funds from the first Cancer Can’t Kill Love were donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in her mother’s name. “Once it was over, I asked for in, and we raised the stakes for a second one. The rest is history.”
This year’s event will take place on Saturday Oct. 13 — Butch’s birthday — from 2 p.m. to midnight at the Gjøa Club, 850 62nd St., where a large turnout is expected to gather for food, drinks and live musical performances while coming together for a common cause.
To date, Cancer Can’t Kill Love has raised over $50,000 for such organizations as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Stand Up To Cancer, the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
A majority of funds have gone to Sloan, where McGoldrick’s father sought treatment. This year, the group hopes to raise $25,000 for the hospital — the highest goal yet.
“Cancer Can’t Kill Love can be credited to my incredible group of friends, but, together, we’ve watched it grow,” McGoldrick said, adding, “You never know how each year is going to turn out, or what it’s going to actually look like — even if you think you have an idea — but if you care for it and tend to it the way we do now, it’s bound to grow into something special.”
Perhaps the benefit’s biggest growth spurt occured at last year’s event, when the 2017 Family of the Year, the Kaahaainas, announced that, with help from friends they’ve made along their own journey, eight Cancer Can’t Kill Love sister events — dubbed “Cancer Grows Love” — would take place this fall across the globe in places like California, Hawaii, London, Tokyo, Costa Rica and more.
The new name, they told McGoldrick, would reflect the positivity her event inspires.
In the same breath, this year’s Brooklyn iteration is expected to be its biggest yet, even prompting a move to a bigger venue.
“The Leif was so good to us, but after watching our head count grow and grow and grow, we realized at the end of year five that we would need a bigger boat,” said McGoldrick of the event’s longtime venue — a Bay Ridge watering hole her parents often frequented together.
“It’s bittersweet,” McGoldrick said of the move to the nearby Gjøa Club, “but we’re excited to change things up this year. We’re coming up with any and all ways to raise money, while also working to make sure everyone has an awesome experience. We want their money to feel well spent.”
The benefit hasn’t just had a significant impact on McGoldrick, but the entire community.
“Particularly in South Brooklyn, I think Cancer Can’t Kill Love has brought people together,” she said, recalling earlier this summer when her team participated in the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District’s Weekend Walk. “There, we told residents about our event, and our inspiration, and were completely blown away by some of the responses we received. We met so many locals affected by cancer that we couldn’t help but cry with some of them. We also met a little boy with dreams, and his own ideas already, of curing cancer. It was totally inspiring, and a good way to measure our impact locally.”
According to the organizer, the benefit remains near to her heart and has given her an outlet to face her losses.
“I like to call Cancer Can’t Kill Love my handrail because, without it, I really don’t know where I’d put my grief,” McGoldrick said. “I leapt into action after our first event because, truthfully, I didn’t know what else to do. Cancer Can’t KIll Love gives me an outlet to channel my grief into something beautiful and positive and tangible that I can say ‘Hey, I did this — we did this.’”
This year, specific batches of merchandise will be sold to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (in memory of two loved ones close to Cancer Can’t Kill Love) as well as the Dear Jack Foundation, an organization geared toward aiding young adults in their fights against cancer.
“We also take pride in our raising of awareness for Be The Match,” McGoldrick said, adding that, in 2017, the Kaahaaina family paved the way for a partnership between Cancer Can’t Kill Love and the global leader in bone marrow transplantation, which, at the fifth event, offered on-site registry for the program. It did so again at the event’s first-ever summer kickoff this August, with the organization planning to be on hand at this weekend’s event as well.
Since partnering, one of McGoldrick’s team members has already been chosen as a match and, earlier this summer, donated platelets for a leukemia patient in need.
“It knocks me off my feet each year — in a good way,” McGoldrick said of Cancer Can’t Kill Love as a whole, “and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
This year’s event will feature nine live acts — Stoop Kids, Denizen, Tyler Conroy, On the Fifty, August on Sunday, Counterspace, the Rooftop Rebellion and Side Peace — as well as more than 50 raffle prizes.
Funds raised at Cancer Can’t Kill Love 6 will be donated to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in loving memory of James Lodato, Vicky Padovano, Kevin Flannery Sr. and Sally Kabel, a.k.a. “Sweet Sally Sunshine.”
Donations for entry are suggested online or at the door. For more information visit, www.cancercantkilllove.com.