While at his day job, Michael Lesakowski plays in dirt.

That makes sense considering he is a principal and senior project manager for Benchmark Turnkey Cos., a Hamburg firm specializing in environmental remediation work deemed essential for any economic development projects.

In his off hours, Lesakowski can be found at many of the area’s ice rinks, either as a player or coach. He has taken that a step beyond in recent years as the co-founder and inspirational leader for the 11 Day Power Play, a group of adult hockey players that through annual events have raised more than $4.1 million for cancer research.

Lesakowski and wife Amy created the 11 Day Power Play, paying homage to Amy, who survived a bout of breast cancer a decade ago, and as a tribute to Mike’s mother, Evelyn, who died in 2016 after suffering from brain and lung cancer.

“It was around that time (2016), we decided to put something together,” Lesakowski said.

That something has evolved into an annual fundraising event. The 2020 11 Day Power Play Community Shift is already set for July 9 to 19 at the LECOM HarborCenter, with clevermethod as the presenting sponsor.

Going into this, did you think the Power Play would have been able to raise $4.1 million in its first three years? It is almost mind-numbing to think of all the support and backing we’ve gotten. After three years and going into our fourth year, people know us and know what the Power Play is.

Originally, it was going to be a one year event, to raise money for Roswell (Park Comprehensive Care Center) and set the record for the world’s longest hockey game. What changed? People didn’t want the Power Play to stop at one year. We decided to make it more of a community event and piggyback off of the success of year one (when 40 skaters set the Guinness record for the longest game at 255 hours). Apparently we were on to something, kind of like how the “Ride for Roswell” has grown over the years.

What were you thinking around 7 a.m., July 3, 2017 when you not only broke the record but found out more than $1 million was raised in the Power Play’s first year? Can you say super emotional? It just proved that everything we worked for mattered. We hit so many goals, no pun intended.

You’ve changed the fund raising destinations a bit. Roswell still gets the lion’s share of the proceeds but funds are also allocated to Make-A-Wish and Camp Good Days and Special Times and now a joint oncology research project between Roswell and the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. Cancer impacts so many people, in so many ways. Our one mandate is that all of the funds we donate must stay local. The research partnership between Roswell and Childrens fits right into that,

After three years, the Power Play has becomes such an iconic event. Does that surprise you? Going into this, I never would have imagined it would have happened like that and happen so quickly. But, it’s hockey. It’s cancer research. It’s Buffalo. I guess that’s the perfect recipe for success to achieve what we’ve achieved so far. But, we are not done.

How do you feel about being known more for the Power Play than running a major Buffalo company? Either way, the Buffalo area is in a better place.

Check out the article in Business First here!