Archive for Friday, June 26, 2009

Dedication pays off in fight against cancer

‘He takes his fundraising like it’s his job’

Relay For Life fundraiser Bob Silipigni, who reached his career fundraising goal of $100,000 this year, talks Tuesday at his Lawrence home about how his late mother, Flora C. Silini, watched her own father and brother die of cancer. Silipigni collected $23,775 this year for Relay For Life, sending his career fundraising total to $106,366.63.

Relay For Life fundraiser Bob Silipigni, who reached his career fundraising goal of $100,000 this year, talks Tuesday at his Lawrence home about how his late mother, Flora C. Silini, watched her own father and brother die of cancer. Silipigni collected $23,775 this year for Relay For Life, sending his career fundraising total to $106,366.63.

June 26, 2009


Awards presented to Silipigni from the American Cancer Society

Awards presented to Silipigni from the American Cancer Society

Money raised for Relay for Life

This year’s Relay for Life of Douglas County raised $172,000 for the American Cancer Society, which was $11,000 less than the record amount raised in 2008.

But, organizers collected more than a ton of nonperishable goods for local food pantries for the first time.

During this year’s event, Lawrence resident Bob Silipigni was honored for raising more than $100,000 during the past nine years.

This year, he raised a record $23,775 and collected donations for 230 of the approximately 4,000 luminaries that surrounded the South Junior High School track. Here’s what he has raised:

2001 - $1,516

2002 - $4,211

2003 - $7,285

2004 - $8,774

2005 - $11,575

2006 - $14,347

2007 - $15, 630

2008 - $19,253

2009 - $23,775

Total - $106,366

Relay for Life brings in second-highest total

An annual Douglas County charity event brought in $170,000 this year. Enlarge video

Lawrence resident Bob Silipigni is doing extraordinary things to fight cancer and help provide services for people suffering from the disease.

For the past nine years, he has been knocking on doors to collect money as part of Relay for Life of Douglas County, an event that raises awareness and money for the American Cancer Society. He does it in memory of his mother, Flora Silini, who watched her brother and father die from the disease.

“I found that, unfortunately, so many people have a family member with cancer or have been affected by it, that it wasn’t that hard to find people that I could relate with,” Silipigni said.

This year, he began fundraising Feb. 20.

“I went at it three to five hours a day, seven days a week for three and half months,” said Silipigni, an Amway Global distributor. “I only took two and a half days off and even on those days, I took care of some donations that came through the mail.”

That dedication paid off.

He raised $23,775. That’s $19,000 more than the next-highest fundraiser, and there were 716 people who participated.

“He takes his fundraising like it’s his job,” said Stacie Schroeder, community manager of development for the American Cancer Society. “He is the most dedicated individual I have ever met in my entire life. He just doesn’t stop.”

A milestone

At this year’s Relay for Life event on June 12, he was recognized for raising more than $100,000 since 2001.

“Although my mother did not pass away from cancer, when I did it, I made sure to have a luminary made for her, too,” Silipigni said. “I wanted her and all of my relatives to be there. I paid for several luminaries. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a couple of friends over the last few years and I made sure they were there with me, too.

“I made it a special time.”

While it’s a lot of work, Silipigni said the achievement is not his alone.

“I did this because of my determination, but also I did it because of the generosity of the people of Lawrence, Kansas,” he said, pointing to 94 sheets of paper that contained the 1,410 names of donors.

While Silipigni often was turned down, it was the kind and caring gestures of others that kept him going.

“People have been so kind, like on Mother’s Day this year. This one family — they were making the entire block smell good because of their cookout. I complimented them on it, and those rascals, they not only gave me a donation, they gave me a plate to go,” he said. “It’s things like this that help to keep me going.”

New friendships

Over the years, he has consoled residents who lost loved ones to cancer, sparked new friendships and even received a dog.

“About four or five years ago, a gentleman was not able to make a donation. They were strapped and they had a bunch of Yorkies,” Silipigni recalled.

Silipigni mentioned he had been a German shepherd-kind-of guy until he got a Yorkshire terrier. The man handed the 7-month-old puppy to Silipigni.

“I will tell you — I needed a third dog like I needed another hole in the head, but I took her,” Silipigni said, laughing.

When Silipigni goes out to collect donations, he carries an American Cancer Society brochure and the number for the Better Business Bureau. Often people don’t have money to give on the spot, so he provides an envelope with his address and number. If someone sends money, he calls and thanks them.

Jeanne Klein, Lawrence, has donated for years.

“Bob’s a great guy,” she said. “We have fabulous conversations, and I think that really is his big secret to success. He gets to know you on a personal level, and he remembers who you are and he remembers what you are interested in.”

For example, Silipigni, a baseball fan, knows Klein rooted for the Detroit Tigers in 1968. So, each year he gives her a baseball card from 1968. She has no idea where he gets them; he tells her they are extras.

“It’s fun to have them,” she said.

Tim and Joy Towle, of Lawrence, also have gotten to know Silipigni. The first year, they gave him a small donation and had a chitchat. Now, he is invited inside for a drink and the conversation lasts at least 45 minutes.

“We talk more each year and always end up giving him a bigger donation,” Joy said, laughing.

Silipigni has checked into where the money that he raises goes.

“I thought they did a good job of satisfying my inquiries, and they even told me of the locations here in Kansas where $3 million in research had gone the year before,” he said.

Each year, he tries to top the year before. This year proved tough with the economic downturn. He heard stories of job losses and people just trying to make ends meet. For the first time, he carried a Ziploc bag because he was getting more coin donations.

“People just didn’t have as much money around the house,” he said.

Regardless, Silipigni raised $4,522 more than last year.

“When I finally stopped just a little over two weeks ago, I actually kind of hit a depression. It’s strange,” he said.

New beginnings

But he’s not yet making plans for next year. Silipigni, who says he quit tracking his age at 40, said he hopes he will be healthy enough to do it. He said fundraising for an illness such as cancer makes him appreciate life.

He reluctantly agreed to an interview for this story.

“One of the things that does concern me is that we have to realize that even when this article is published in the Journal-World, there are going to be people who are suffering with health issues as they read it and terminally ill people as they read it, and here I am going to be in the spotlight, and I can’t say that I am comfortable with that because everyone has their story.”

Silipigni would rather have the spotlight on the disease that kills thousands each year, the cancer survivors and the hundreds who made donations.

“He doesn’t want a lot of recognition, but you know, he deserves it,” said Lori Kloepper, a Lawrence cancer survivor. “He really does.”


Dani Davey 8 years, 7 months ago

Wow, this is amazing Bob. Thank you for your work!!

If anyone missed the Lawrence Relay and wants to check Relay out, Shawnee/Lenexa Relay is tonight at Swarner Park at 63rd and Lackman. There will be a silent auction and Applebee's is catering for free! Bring a donation and come check it out!

icacrynette 8 years, 7 months ago

That is so awesome!!! Thank you Bob for working so hard at this! As someone who has a young daughter that is dealing with this, our family greatly apprecitates your hard work!!

Sharon Aikins 8 years, 7 months ago

Thank you, Bob, for your hard work for this cause. As a cancer survivor, I have to appreciate the fact that people like you might be part of the reason I am alive today. It's amazing how much you have raised over the years. Keep up the good work.

I might add that I have a customer from Tennessee who has purchased items from my eBay store each year to be sold for their Relay for Life. Do we do anything like that here in Lawrence? I'm not sure how and when they do it but they do have several times that they offer products for sale for the Relay for Life fundraiser. I'm sure a lot of us locals would be proud and happy to donate items for this worthy cause.

overthemoon 8 years, 7 months ago

Bob used to come by our old house and we gave whatever we could. Then we moved. One evening I saw him coming down the driveway...and he still remembered us, commenting that he was confused, didn't we use to live in another part of town? We always have a nice chat and we still give whatever we can.

The world should be so lucky as to have more Bobs around.

Matthew Fowler 8 years, 7 months ago

I don't know this man, but he deserves credit for doing what he is doing.

Music_Girl 8 years, 7 months ago

Go Bob! It's people like you that give hope to those who are struggling and/or have lost a loved one!

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 7 months ago

It is a great story and we all owe him thanks because not one of us knows if we will get cancer. My colonoscopy was painful, but I went though it, telling myself that cancer is even more painful. Then I learned about Farah Fawcetts dying from anal cancer. Now I am glad I had the proceedure. There are kind, generous people out there who give to others. To give in to despair is in a way to negate what they do. Thanks Bob!

Richard Heckler 8 years, 7 months ago

Reality is HR 676 is the only plan that puts all of us one umbrella.

HR676 is the ONLY option being offered NOT connected to corporate american insurance giants. It is the only plan that provides long term care no matter what.

This would be a great gift for Bob. However then he would need to find another reason to visit all of these friends he has met over the years otherwise they might realize Bob withdrawal. His energy is something to behold.

Politicians on all sides of the aisle are still concerned for themselves and their election campaigns while you and I pick up the cost of their insurance. Each of the many politicians could easily afford to pay their own way. Yet you and I are doing so.

I cannot afford THEIR medical insurance. Why should taxpayers be forced to pay insurance for elected officials? They say paying for mine is not affordable. Then how is theirs affordable? Think about it. How many times are we paying considering the number of politicians in our lives?

All taxpayers need coverage, taxpayers need relief and big time reduction in cost.

HR 676 is the only equitable approach that includes all of us.

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, and long term care.

A family of four making the median income of $56,200 would pay about $2,700 in payroll tax for all health care costs.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save 350 billion annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.... according to the CBO.

Paying More, Getting Less How much is the sick U.S. health care system costing you?

It's time Bob no longer had to be the generous fundraiser for cancer or any serious illness. People short on college money could use a guy like Bob. He is remarkable.

SandCoAlmanac 8 years, 7 months ago

I've known Bob for several decades, and he never ceases to amaze me. Early in our friendship, he invited me to play on his slow-pitch softball team. That was probably the most diverse group of people gathered into one 'team' that I've ever experienced. I think I was the slow "what ...?' person. After only one practice, it was clear Bob had asked only people-centered players to be on his team. That was so much fun! I see he hasn't changed a bit! Way to go, man! I'm proud of you and wish you the best in life! I, too, am a cancer survivor (malignant melanoma) and would like to thank all of you who have donated to the American Cancer Society. Thanks again, Bob! You're one of the many, truly, bright lights of Lawrence!

Dayle Hodges 8 years, 7 months ago

Good going Bob!! You make the LHS Class of '72 proud!

OzChicklet 8 years, 7 months ago

HOORAY! I am glad to see Bob's work recognized in this manner! He is a gem! If you have not had him call on you, please consider sending a donation to the American Cancer Society, and let that donation be part of his fund raising goal.

It's also very nice to see everyone being nice to each other in this commentary :-) Peace be with you all!

christy kennedy 8 years, 7 months ago

Thank you, Bob, and everybody else who gives time and energy and $$.

Jim Phillips 8 years, 7 months ago

Bob, Congratulations and thank you for all you hard work. I'll be waiting for your knock on my door again next year.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.