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Matthew Foster Foundation is poised to help 500th family battling childhood cancer

The Matthew Foster Foundation is looking forward to reaching two milestones this year.

The foundation expects to surpass the $1 million mark in funds raised since it was established 17 years ago.

And it plans to assist its 500th Western New York family in a battle with childhood cancer.

The foundation was set up in 1999, a month after its namesake, a 17-year-old Iroquois Central High School senior, died following a 25-month struggle with rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS, an aggressive and unusual muscular and soft tissue cancer.

In the aftermath of that ordeal, Matthew’s parents, Burt and Debra Foster, decided to honor his memory by providing emotional and financial help to families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer.

The Fosters, who run the foundation from their home in Elma, find families in need through the social workers at Women & Children’s Hospital, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Compassion Net and Hospice Buffalo-Essential Care.

The foundation website lists nearly a dozen ways that it has provided assistance, such as:

• Helping with home and car payments for a family of a 4-year-old boy who is undergoing treatment at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

• Covering travel expenses to Seattle so that a young man could go there for consultation about Ewing’s sarcoma.

• Providing home care co-payments to the family of a young woman with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

To support its efforts, the foundation accepts donations through its website and holds three main fundraisers annually – the Ray of Hope Gala in March, a golf tournament in August at the East Aurora Country Club and a raffle of two Buffalo Sabres season tickets in September.

The gala will take place March 12 at Columns Banquets, 2221 Transit Road, at Seneca Street, Elma, with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 7, followed by live music and dancing, plus live and silent auctions. Tickets are $80, or $750 for a table of 10. For information or to make a donation, visit the website,