Sisters Sue Padulo and Sandy Cross were honored by IHOA in September with the prestigious Mark Gore Service Award as their non-profit charity organization Puck Cancer, founded to assist others whose lives have been changed by cancer, will celebrate 20 years in 2024 of hosting summer hockey tournaments.
Padulo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 26, but her love of hockey and desire to skate drove her to a healthy, cancer-free life.
To celebrate her survivorship, Puck Cancer was formed.
Hockey players and fans share a unique passion which they have been able to direct towards making a difference in the fight against the grueling disease, they said.
Padulo and Cross still play women’s adult league hockey, run Puck Cancer summer hockey tournaments and the Mark Gore Memorial Golf Tournament.
Gore officiated Puck Cancer tournaments before his death in January, 2021. Gore was an IHOA official, mentor, supervisor and volunteer in the hockey community.
“When (longtime IHOA official) Jack Raslawski reached out for assistance with the golf tournament, we were more than happy to join,” which they have helped for several years, Padulo said. “We had no idea that we were (even) in the running for this (service) award. We were very surprised and honored to receive it.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by our peers for all the years of hard work and dedication we have put into Puck Cancer. It takes a tremendous amount of work and effort, and to have that acknowledged is an amazing feeling.”
Funds raised from the 2023 Mark Gore Memorial Golf Tournament are being donated to families dealing with cancer, including a local referee who is battling brain cancer.
The sisters live in Sugar Grove. Sue is the president and co-founder of Puck Cancer. Shannon is the vice president. Sue started playing as an adult in competitive and recreational women’s adult hockey leagues. Shannon played high school hockey and then competitive and recreational women’s adult hockey.
Shannon was awarded the Chicago Blackhawks Youth Hockey Volunteer of the Month honor for her dedication to the Hockey Is For Everyone program and Puck Cancer. She joined the Puck Cancer board in 2010.
“Returning to the ice after cancer was a difficult process, but Sue was able to do that after taking a year off to recover,” Shannon said. “The first goal Sue scored was in the state championship shootout. After scoring, Sue skated to the bench and screamed “F@#$ Cancer”! The team and fans chanted with her and from there, the idea was put in motion.”
The first women’s hockey tournament that they ran was in 2004 with six local teams and has grown to 30 teams from all over the nation.
In 2012, they expanded to an adult co-ed tournament which includes a unique set of rules to allow friends and family, male or female, to play together. This is now one of the largest co-ed tournaments around with close to 30 teams participating.
They also a few years ago started a men’s tournament that is constantly gaining interest and continuing to grow each year. “Working with different local hockey organizations such as college, youth, adult and semipro teams, is something we participate in to help raise funds for families battling cancer,” Padulo said.
Puck Cancer has helped more than 200 families in different states, donating more than $200,000 to the families. “We donate funds directly to families as opposed to a large organization. This allows us to see the impact our work makes on these families and how it helps,” Padulo said. “We encourage the families to use the funds in any way to reduce stress and allow that cancer patient to heal mentally or physically. If this includes paying doctor bills or taking a short vacation, we understand how a positive effect can have a healing effect.”
Padulo confirmed they plan to add a girl’s division to the 2024 summer tournament slate.
“Our big milestone is next year’s 20th tournament. We hope to continue to grow the men’s and girl’s tournaments as well as keep up the participation in our co-ed and women’s tournaments.”