Sept. 11 benefit aids cancer foundation

The Lodge of Dreaming Tree Ranch at 185 Wilkinson Road, Potsdam, is used as a retreat for families who have found out that a child in their family has pediatric cancer. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — A Sept. 11 fundraiser in Massena will help a foundation that assists families who have a child that has been diagnosed with cancer.

The Summer Island Fundraiser for the “Help Sami Kick Cancer Foundation” will be held at 190 River Road. It begins at 2 p.m. and includes music, raffles, food and drink, and more. It’s open to individuals 21 and older.

The foundation was established by James and Karen Curtis after their 18-year-old daughter, Samantha “Sami” Curtis, died in May 2017 following a two-year battle with cancer.

The Sept. 11 fundraiser is being hosted by Anne and Barry Lawrence, friends of the Curtis family. It’s the second fundraiser they’ve held for the foundation.

“I knew Sami since she was about 5 years old. Her dad, Jim Curtis and I have been friends for decades,” Mr. Lawrence said.

He said they usually hold a summer party at their camp and decided last year to make it a fundraiser. He said that, because of COVID, they didn’t have a large crowd, about 60 people. But, at the same time, nearly 200 people donated online at

“This year we got with the Curtis’s again. It’s a little bit bigger event with more prizes and more food and more everything. We’re looking for a good size crowd for sure,” Mr. Lawrence said.

Divided Roots will be playing for four hours, and the raffles will include big ticket items like grills, a weekend getaway at a Lake Placid resort, a 32-inch flat screen television and more.

“We had a lot of success with people giving stuff,” he said.

There will be pulled pork and shredded beef sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers, and beverages will be available from the In-Law Brewery and Cappione’s. T-shirts and sweatshirts from the foundation will also be available for purchase.

Sami was a 2016 graduate of Hugh C. Williams High School in Canton, where she was class co-president and a member of the National Honor Society. She served as an FFA (Future Farmers of America) Club officer and was a three-sport athlete at Canton Central School. She continued her education at SUNY Potsdam in 2016. She was a freshman in her first semester when she died.

She led community efforts to help others with cancer after her mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, died in 2002. Since childhood, Sami raised thousands of dollars for the St. Lawrence County Cancer Foundation. She was a foundation board member at 13.

She received the Liberty Award, the highest honor presented by the U.S. Senate and the 2017 Woman of Distinction Award from state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie.

“She packed a lot in for 18 short years,” said her aunt, Darlene O’Connor.

The Help Sami Kick Cancer Foundation relies on community grants and local support to enact its mission. The foundation’s primary project is running The Lodge of Dreaming Tree Ranch at 185 Wilkinson Road, Potsdam. The family purchased the property that’s located between Potsdam and Canton as a retreat for families who have found out that a child in their family has pediatric cancer.

There are nature trails for walking, skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding and side-by-side ATV riding. Campfires, swimming, fishing, hunting and a sugar house for making maple syrup are just a few of the amenities.

“They bring in families that have children diagnosed with terminal illness. If they want to hunt, if they want to fish, if they want to go someplace, and there’s no charge. That’s what the lodge is for,” Mr. Lawrence said.

“It’s what Sami would have wanted,” Ms. O’Connor said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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