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Gelatin Splash to pay tribute to the late Dr. Meir Wetzler

What would you give to slide into a pool filled with gelatin on a summer evening in Western New York?

If you can raise $500 for the Western & Central New York Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, that would do the trick.

The 26th annual Gelatin Splash will take place at 6 p.m. June 11 at Banchetti By Rizzo’s, 550 N. French Road in Amherst. Admission is free for spectators. For more information or to register, visit lls.org/wcnygelatinsplash or call the chapter office at 834-2578.

Register, and here’s what you might get: Those who raise $1,000 or more will have a chance to win tickets to six Buffalo Sabres home games next season, and the top 20 fundraisers will win chances to go on a cruise, south Florida vacation or one of a bunch of other excursions closer to home.

“We are in tremendous need of splashers,” said Luann Burgio, deputy executive director of the regional society chapter.

This year’s event will pay special tribute to one of its most noble splashers, Dr. Meir Wetzler, who died in February after a skiing accident in Colorado. Wetzler, who was chief of the Leukemia Section and medical director of Clinical Services in the Department of Medicine at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, was a fan favorite in recent years during the Gelatin Splash costume contest, which he and his team of Roswell co-workers often won.

The team dressed as superheroes one year. Wetzler played Superman. The doctor made a great Gilligan during another splash, Burgio said, and last year donned high-heel red boots as part of a Roswell Kinky Boots entourage.

What a rarity, she said, to have a doctor so brilliant, determined and playfully gregarious. “What a tremendous, tremendous loss.”

Burgio shared the story of a patient diagnosed with cancer in 2012 who was treated by Wetzler. He eased her fears in part by telling her, “You’ll be OK and you’ll splash with us next year.” The patient showed up with $3,000 in donor pledges for those who wanted to see her slide into a pool packed with gelatin.

All proceeds from the splash will be directed toward blood cancer research, local patient aid and services, advocacy, education and community service programs.

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