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First Niagara teammates raise breast cancer awareness among 'Irreplaceable' women in their lives

by jmaloni

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Thu, Oct 31st 2013 10:15 am

Bank employee's nonprofit "Project Irreplaceable" raises awareness of the importance of self-examination and mammography for early detection of breast cancer, which has touched the lives and loved ones of 86 percent of First Niagara's workforce

As part of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, First Niagara Financial Group Inc. designated Oct. 30 as "Project Irreplaceable Day" for its 5,800 teammates, after learning of the important efforts of one of its employees to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Richard A. Mellick, a financial adviser in Pittsburgh, launched Project Irreplaceable with his three children to honor his wife, a breast cancer survivor. The website is designed to help people encourage the irreplaceable women in their lives to be conscientious about self-examinations, in addition to scheduling regular mammograms.

"Early detection is so critically important when it comes to breast cancer," Mellick said. "My children were inspired by the support our family received from doctors, friends and family throughout my wife's treatment; they wanted to 'pay it forward' by increasing breast cancer awareness. They decided that, if they could create a project that might motivate someone else's mother to take the time to do a potentially life-saving self-exam, they'll have succeeded."

At the core of Project Irreplaceable is a letter writing campaign encouraging individuals to write letters to the invaluable women in their lives, about why they are irreplaceable. So far, more than 25 schools from different states have participated in the letter-writing campaign. This year, the Mellick children say their goal is to reach 100 schools. And on Oct. 30, First Niagara's 5,800 employees were asked to take time during the day to write a letter to an irreplaceable woman in their lives.

More than 86 percent of First Niagara teammates report personally knowing someone who currently has or is a survivor of breast cancer, according to an employee survey conducted as part of the bank's Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities.

"With so many people directly touched by breast cancer, we feel it's important for us to help Richard call attention to Project Irreplaceable," said Gary M. Crosby, interim president and CEO. "We're very proud of Richard and his family for doing so much to educate women about what they can do to be proactive about their health, while ensuring that they know how much they're loved and appreciated."

In addition to the letter-writing campaign, First Niagara is showing its support during Breast Cancer Month in a variety of ways, including:

•Helping to fund the Erie County Medical Center Lifeline Foundation's "Mammography Bus," which provides mammograms to underserved and under-tested women throughout Western New York.

•Participating in and providing funding for regional Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks to benefit the American Cancer Society.

•Turning select branches "pink" during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to help raise money

"First Niagara is proud to provide both financial support and take the lead to promote this innovative program that encourages women to take control of their health, empowering our community to 'Do Great Things' is what we do," said Executive Director of the First Niagara Foundation Elizabeth Gurney. "Early detection is the key, and we are doing everything we can to promote breast cancer awareness."

To learn more about the awareness campaign, and to view a copy of the sample letter form, visit www.projectirreplaceable.com. Schools interested in participating in the project should visit www.projectirreplaceable.com/dear-principal.

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