Inspirational Donor Leaves Behind a Beautiful Legacy
For more than 12 years, avid Golisano Children’s Hospital supporter Deb Milgate-Moyer dedicated her time to organizing and executing fundraising events for sick and injured kids of our region, raising nearly $300,000 for the children’s hospital. On Oct. 31, 2014 Deb lost her brave battle with myelodysplasia, a cancer that affects the bone marrow and its ability to produce healthy blood cells, but even after her September 2013 diagnosis, she continued fighting for others.
Deb’s fundraising ventures started in 1999, when she founded the Tim Milgate Charity Golf Tournament, a fundraiser created in memory of her brother that raised $245,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital. In addition to helping advance services at the children’s hospital, the golf tournament also helped an “inspiration child” each year, providing ramps, educational funds and renovations for wheelchair accessibility to many families. The twelfth and final golf fundraiser was held in August 2011, but Deb’s commitment to the hospital didn’t stop there.
Deb and Jennifer Brush, another longtime supporter of the children’s hospital and creator of the Taylor Brush Memorial Dinner Dance, which ran for 10 years, started a “TNT Explosion” event in 2012. The two veteran fundraisers and community-minded-go-getters combined their 22 years of experience to make the event another success. In its first year, the TNT Explosion featured wine and beer tasting from 17 local wineries and breweries, food, live music, and a silent auction. The community’s support helped raise $16,278. The fundraising duo were so pleased they committed to raising $100,000 to have a patient room named in the event’s honor in the future children’s hospital.
“Deb always thought of others and putting them first,” said Stephanie Sheets, assistant director of community affairs for Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Even while fighting to get healthy, Deb worked diligently to prepare for the next fundraiser. Her energy accumulated into wonderful donations that have, and will continue to, touch the lives of many children.”
Golf tournaments continued to hold a special place in Deb’s heart and, in the summer of 2013, she began partnering with her friends at Cheshire AV Inc. for what soon became the Cheshire-Milgate Golf Classic. Another children’s hospital fundraiser, the golf classic raises funds for the hospital’s Kirch Developmental Services Center, particularly to benefit music therapy. With Deb’s help, the event has raised $20,000.
“Deb single-handedly grew our golf event from 60 participants to the 225 we saw last year,” said Justin Cheshire, co-organizer of the tournament. “Her eagerness to raise money for the hospital was easy to follow and our event certainly benefited, without question, from her involvement. Even in her own time of need, she was securing sponsors, talking about the golf tournament and helping others in any way she could. It really sums up who she was and what she stood for.”
It was shortly after the conjoined tournament’s first year that Deb faced a personal setback and was diagnosed with cancer. She was in the middle of preparing for the TNT Explosion’s second year, and despite being sick and tired from undergoing chemotherapy, it was important to Deb to be present for the event, even if it meant having to ‘Skype in’ from her hospital room at UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute.
“Despite what she was going through, my mom was always happy to be alive and to be able to do something to make someone else’s life better,” said Jacque, Deb’s youngest of four daughters. “Whether it was fighting cancer or organizing a fundraiser for the children, she always put 110 percent into everything she did.”
Thanks to her brother Tom’s generosity and bravery, Deb was able to undergo a bone marrow transplant in December 2013. Shortly after the transplant, Deb showed a great deal of progress, but a sudden blast of leukemia cells set her off course and ultimately caused her body to reject the transplant. Having participated in eight clinical trials already, both at the Wilmot Cancer Institute and Buffalo’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Deb entered her ninth in October 2014.
While Deb was in the intensive care unit at Buffalo, Jacque took over a great deal of the planning for the 3rd TNT Explosion. Over the years, Golisano Children’s Hospital had become as special to her and her sisters, Cassie, Amy and Jennifer, as it was to their mom. It was also important to Deb’s husband of 30 years, Rick Moyer, who was by her side every step of the way.
In her final days, Deb was transferred from Buffalo to Rochester to be with her family in the city that she loved. With one day until the 3rd annual TNT Explosion, Deb passed away on Oct. 31, 2014.
The event continued the next day, just how Deb would’ve wanted it to. The bittersweet fundraiser at least doubled in size from its original total, hosting family and friends from near and far who came to celebrate Deb and a cause close to her heart.
“It was a very busy and emotional day, but we did what my mom would’ve done and it turned out to be really beautiful,” said Jacque. With the support of her sisters and dad, Jacque looks forward to following in her mother’s footsteps and working with Jennifer and Justin on future TNT Explosions and golf tournaments.
“I hope to be able to do half the job my mother did and to be half of the person she was,” said Jacque.
Golisano Children’s Hospital is incredibly grateful for Deb’s kindness, generosity, creativity, and the incredible legacy her fundraisers will continue to be remembered for. She touched the hearts of everyone she came in contact with and will continue to do so with what she had left behind. We look forward to a future of working with her daughters, husband, and friends in fundraisers that honor her and spread her joy.
Save the date for the 2015 Cheshire-Milgate Golf Classic July 27 at Deerfield Golf & Country Club. Registration starts at 9 a.m., with a shotgun start following at 10 a.m. Register today!