Crystal Cocca: North Collins school district treasurer and town bookkeeper; mother of two; happily married wife; Herd of Hope pioneer.
Crystal would probably never call herself a pioneer, but she is. She’s the first person to rally an entire community around the Herd of Hope blue buffalo in support of cutting-edge cancer research at Roswell Park. But while being a pioneer is great, her goal is to be just the first of many.
The blue buffalo has deeply personal meaning, too. In February of 2018, a routine mammogram led to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Following surgery, six rounds of chemo, 20 radiation treatments and a year of hormone infusions, she’s in remission. Crystal was so grateful for the support from her community in North Collins, New York, that she wanted to do something to show her appreciation. She didn’t want to just throw a party; she wanted something lasting and all-inclusive. What she came up with provided not only that but also the opportunity to support other cancer patients through research at Roswell Park.
“I thought, what visual representation can I have in the community that is inclusive of all people and cancers? So I chose the blue buffalo as being the symbol of everyone — those battling, those surviving, those who have been taken from us. That was the best way I could give back that included everyone and supported research at the same time.”
Crystal drafted a letter with a picture of a Herd of Hope blue buffalo, told her story and invited businesses to help her bring the blue buffalo to their community. “My line was: Our community is small, but our hearts are big. Help me bring a blue buffalo home.” She got a great response from the business community of North Collins, then reached out to her church family and close friends.
Before long, the small town in southern Erie County had its own Herd of Hope blue buffalo. It was unveiled in August and now stands proudly in Marion J Fricano Memorial Town Park for residents and visitors to see. It’s covered in cancer ribbons of many different colors to show the impact the disease has on everyone and the importance of groundbreaking research at Roswell Park.
But Crystal isn’t stopping there.
“My next mission is to challenge the neighboring towns and villages to turn our blue buffalo into as many blue buffaloes as we possibly can. The goal is $25,000. I’d like to find five more communities that will follow North Collins’ lead. We even have a mini blue buffalo to give as incentive to the first town, village or municipality that joins us in the Herd.
“Our community supports Roswell, supports cancer research and supports each other.”
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.