Zach Bogosian knew he had a good life. He grew up with a loving family in Massena, a peaceful town in northern New York nestled on the St. Lawrence River. Norman Rockwell had a summer home in the area. Had they lived at the same time, Bogosian could have been one of those content tykes in Rockwell’s portraits of Americana.
When Bogosian reached the NHL at age 18, he really understood how lucky he was. Not because he achieved a childhood dream, but because he encountered so many who were less fortunate. The defenseman and his Atlanta Thrashers teammates would visit various Georgia hospitals, and the number of patients would have greatly increased the population of Bogosian’s small hometown.
“In Massena, N.Y., there’s not a lot of treatment centers and stuff like that as far as being around people that are less fortunate,” Bogosian said. “You hear about it and you read about it, but to get in hospital rooms and talk to the families and see the way they struggle, it hit home for me.”
He knew one day he wanted to donate more than his time. He’s excited that day has arrived.
The Buffalo Sabres blue-liner and his wife, Bianca, have created the Bogo Bunch Foundation. Its goal is to create a family atmosphere for those in need, especially people battling cancer. His grandmother, Armen, succumbed to lymphoma in 2013.
“It was something we talked about quite a bit growing up how she battled with it,” Bogosian said. “Research and treatments helped her survive a lot longer than maybe we anticipated.”
His foundation’s goal is to bring those extra days to others.
“It’s something I’m really excited about,” Bogosian said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for many years. It goes back to I grew up very fortunate with good health, and in my career I’ve come across people that have not been as fortunate.
“It’s a sad thing to see, and the way I was raised is to give back to people that are less fortunate. That’s what my wife and I are trying to do.”
It took the Bogosians awhile to get the foundation started, but things are happening quickly now. The website (TheBogoBunchFoundation.org) is up and running. The first fundraising event is planned.
Bogosian will host “Casino for a Cause” at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 in the Town Ballroom. Sabres players, dressed in Prohibition-era clothes, will serve as blackjack dealers as a Frank Sinatra tribute band plays.
“I always said if I ever started a foundation and had an event, that was right at the top of my list,” Bogosian said. “We did it in Atlanta, and it was a great thing for obviously the community, but it was fun for the players to give back and be their blackjack dealers.”
Bogosian will split the proceeds from the event between Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the lesser-known Buffalo Wellness Center Juicer Fund.
“It’s to teach people how to eat healthier and try to prevent things and live a better quality of life,” Bogosian said. “I try to live that way as far as being healthy and taking care of my body, but they’ve done a good job of trying to teach people about certain things you can eat and drink that can help their process go a little bit smoother.”
Website is up and running! You can buy tickets for "Casino for A Cause" starting at 12 today! RT to spread the word!https://t.co/PqlS1beOzj
— TheBogoBunch (@TheBogoBunch) November 21, 2016
Though a sprained knee has limited Bogosian to just nine games, he’s been a contributor on game nights. He and center Ryan O’Reilly have purchased a KeyBank Center suite that they donate to charity. Bogosian has greeted fans from SABAH, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo, Camp Good Days, Make Lemonaide for CP and others in the dressing room after games.
“You try to help out everyone,” Bogosian said. “The majority of the games, I’d say about 35 or 37 games, would be used for kids or patients, just to get them out of hospitals or out of their everyday life and what’s normal to them, which would be very not normal to us.
“It’s just to get them out to a game and let them enjoy it with their family and have something they can look forward to, something they can talk about, and hopefully they enjoy the whole experience.”
Bogosian became a father this year, so he has a soft spot for kids. But he’ll always remember his grandmother’s fight, so he’s making sure his foundation is all-encompassing.
“When you see a kid it’s a very sad thing, but I think what gets lost in it is there’s a lot of older people as well that aren’t living a good quality of life, and that’s what my wife and I are trying to help out with,” Bogosian said. “I’m playing a game for a living. That’s very lucky. Take hockey out of it, and I’m very fortunate with good health. I’ve been surrounded by a lot of good people that have had good health as well.
“We’ve been blessed with pretty fortunate lives, and some people aren’t as fortunate. It’s fun to get out there and try to do your part to give back.”
Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃 Last nights guests at the game from Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo, enjoy the day!!!! pic.twitter.com/Cs5QTKMtJU
— TheBogoBunch (@TheBogoBunch) November 24, 2016
— TheBogoBunch (@TheBogoBunch) November 20, 2016
Last nights guest's of the game in the suite! Miracle League Field of WNY. Thanks for coming out and supporting us! pic.twitter.com/g86JLl4oNS
— TheBogoBunch (@TheBogoBunch) November 18, 2016
Last nights guest of the game. The Buffalo Sabres Thunder, nice meeting everyone and goodluck!! pic.twitter.com/vGOSURsUpN
— TheBogoBunch (@TheBogoBunch) November 10, 2016
— TheBogoBunch (@TheBogoBunch) November 4, 2016