By Mark Leoncyk | Published on December 15, 2022
November 11, 2018. I woke up early in the morning already knowing the news before I was told. My cousin, Steven, had passed away after a battle with lung cancer. It was a tough time for my family and I, as he was only in his mid 30s. He still had his whole life ahead of him, but it was cut way too short.
About a week before this day, I had the idea to run a cancer fundraising charity event to support Steven. I wasn’t sure what I had in mind, so I started thinking of cancer fundraising ideas. A 24-hour video game livestream? Too exhausting. Having friends join me during the livestream? Easier, but a lot to plan out regarding who would join and how we would fill the time. I figured involving friends would be my easiest and best option, so I started asking around to see if this was something my friends would be interested in. I settled on a date—a very fast approaching one—of December 7—and I started looking around for philanthropic organizations the cancer fundraising event could benefit. I had heard of the Prevent Cancer Foundation through another charity video game marathon that supports them, Games Done Quick. I still remember the initial phone call I had with the Foundation—we hit it off right away and had a great idea of what we’d be trying to accomplish. By then, I had my group of 12 that would be joining for the livestream, and all we needed was a name. After some discussion, we settled on the Mark and Friends Smile Time Variety Hour, a reference to a bit from the show “The Simpsons,” one of our favorite shows. Since then, the name has shortened to just “Smile Time Charity.”
Now, all these years later, we’re running our 5th event. It’s crazy to me that this much time has passed since December 7, 2018. Each year has shown great improvement— last year’s cancer fundraising event raised over $20,000 and we surpassed $50,000 raised since our start in 2018. The team has grown, too. What started as 12 streamers and 2 artists has evolved to almost 30 people participating in some capacity. Each and every one of them takes time out of their busy schedules to help put in the work to make sure tasks are getting done so we can run the best event possible. I cannot thank all of them enough for all their hard work. These five events have been the absolute highlight of my life. My family has dealt a lot with cancer. Knowing I can do something to help and honor the memory of my loved ones brings me a lot of happiness. The kindness shown from the Prevent Cancer Foundation over the years has been incredible—they’re an absolute joy to work with.
As the event gets closer, we like to have monthly meetings to make sure everything is going smoothly. At the last meeting before the event, I like to tell everyone to never think of it as, “Whoever raised the most had the best segment.” If you raised five dollars or $5,000, you helped bring more awareness and donations to an amazing cause. It’s a shared effort and by the end of the weekend, we’re proud to produce a number everyone can look at and say, “I helped get us there.”
We’re so thankful for Smile Time Charity and all our other fundraising champions who put their imagination and creativity to work in preventing cancer!