What does it take to be a hero?
In the case of the Herd of Hope Hero Award, a lot of compassion and commitment. The Hero Award seeks to recognize and honor an individual who inspires hope — hope for loved ones, hope for the community, hope for a cure and hope for the future.
The recipient of the 2019 Hero Award is father, husband,
colon cancer survivor and cancer advocate Kevin Hays!
In 2014, Kevin Hays and his wife, Hilary, were enjoying life as new parents to their daughter, Abby. Feeling an ignited sense of responsibility for his health, Kevin decided it was time to do the adult thing and take care of his annual appointments – the doctor, the dentist and a colonoscopy because of a history of polyps. Just routine, he thought. No big deal.
Then he got a call that changed his life. A call with a word he was never anticipating – cancer. He was only 28 years old.
Kevin was shocked but took on the challenge headfirst. After harsh, intense treatment and surgery, and exciting news of a second baby on the way, he was hopeful for the future. He’s had two more recurrences. This time it was stage 4.
But he’s taken the fight into his own hands and brought his journey to the community, getting down to business trying to end cancer.
Now a father of three, Kevin uses his experience with cancer to advocate, educate and motivate others. His biggest goals is to encourage more people in the real estate and construction industry to get screened. Because, he points out, chemo is far, far worse than that one uncomfortable test.
He uses his nonprofit Buffalo Colon Corps and the Blue Hope Hard Hat Initiative as a platform to “break down resistance to screening and encourage young people to pay attention to their bodies and take symptoms seriously,” Kevin says in a blog post he wrote for Roswell Park’s Cancer Talk.
Participants wear branded Blue Hope Hard Hats on job sites around Buffalo during March, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and give toolbox talks about colorectal health and screening at jobsite meetings.
Kevin is also involved with the Undy RunWalk and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance as an engagement committee member for the Buffalo RunWalk and its Blue Bash kickoff party; has been active with Roswell Park’s Young Adults Program; and is an American Cancer Society WNY board member.
When nominations for the Herd of Hope Hero Award opened, Kevin’s aunt, Mary Pasternak, was thrilled to have the opportunity to spotlight Kevin. “He is a HERO to so many! He has taken this awful thing and made it his mission to help others. To know him is to love him,” she says. “It’s hard to quantify the impact he has had on the community, but I know his story has affected so many people. Because of him, more people are aware of the warning signs, more people are getting screened, and more people are donating to and raising critical funds for cancer research.”
Kevin epitomizes the definition of a hero, and that’s
why Kevin is our Herd of Hope Hero Award recipient.
Herd of Hope buffaloes are a symbol of hope, generosity and innovation in Western New York — all of which are characteristics of the award winner. Join our herd today by purchasing your own mini buffalo to support cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center by visiting herdofhope.org/join.