Immune to Cancer: The CRI Blog



For the Love of Burpees and Cancer Research: How a ’21 Challenger is Pushing Himself for a Cancer-Free Future

After losing his grandmother and few other family members to cancer several years ago, Salvatore Toner began supporting cancer research through various fundraising efforts and volunteer work. When the Cancer Research Institute launched the ’21 Challenge for Cancer Research in January, he immediately saw it as an opportunity to commit to something big, engage with his community, and make a positive impact for all cancer patients. We recently spoke with him about his enthusiasm for the event and how he has leveraged his personal connections to fundraise for CRI.

Sal (fundraiser) and Angelo (survivor)
Salvatore Toner with client and cancer survivor Angelo

What motivated you to start your fundraising team, F.C. Chaos?

As the owner of the Staten Island, NY-based gym F.C. Chaos Fitness & Boxing, I have witnessed many instances of perseverance, grit, and camaraderie among my members. Whether it has been training someone to reach a fitness goal or providing emotional support on a tough day, the F.C. Chaos community always prioritizes “achieving [our] goals together.” Many of us have been affected by cancer and creating this fundraising team has been a way to honor those we love.

What do the “F” and “C” stand for in F.C. Chaos?

The “F” and “C” in the gym’s name stand for a few things: Fitness Club, Football Club, and Fight Club, but thinking about this fundraiser, “Friendship and Community” also seem fitting. Our members always strive to find ways to motivate and support each other through challenges.

Tell us more about your fundraiser.

On February 7, I started my challenge: 21 burpees daily for 21 days (leading up to my birthday on March 1). As a self-proclaimed lover of burpees, I chose this exercise as a fun way to push my physical limits. I also felt confident that my friends and family would be excited about my challenge and perhaps inspired to donate and set their own ’21 Challenge goal.

Sal (fundraiser) and Dawn (survivor)
Salvatore Toner with client and cancer survivor Dawn

How did you encourage donations?

Keeping with the event theme, I asked people to donate $21 and to spread the word to 21 people within their networks to help me reach my fundraising goal of $2,021. I was amazed at how eager people were to donate. By breaking my larger goal down into small, affordable asks, I was able to appeal to the diverse network of people I interact with both in the gym and online through my fundraising page. 

Twenty-one days can feel like a long time. How did you hold yourself accountable?

For the past three weeks, I recorded and uploaded daily progress videos. Each video featured me and at least one other person doing the 21 burpees. It was important for me to start each video with a brief explanation of why I was doing the challenge. I wanted people to know that my goal was bigger than me. CRI has a history of supporting the most promising research to give cancer patients the most hope, and I wanted to remind my audience of that. 

I wanted to share my progress so others could see that regardless to what goal you choose for yourself, you can easily fundraise and make a difference. The ’21 Challenge gave me the tools to do that.

I found it easy to connect with people by uploading videos and providing the donation link to my fundraiser. The feedback on my videos was so positive and included encouraging comments, requests to join me in upcoming videos, and even suggestions for fun burpee variations! 

If you could give advice to anyone considering starting a fundraiser, what would it be?

Just start! If you are like me and love connecting with your community and raising funds for cancer research, you are bound to have fun. Set your goal and reach out to your network every way you can (email, social media, in-person) to let them know why your goal is important to you and how they can help. The more you share, the more you will pique people’s interest and see engagement. Oftentimes they are looking for ways to give back and your fundraiser might be the perfect opportunity.

As of March 1, Sal has raised just over $1,200—halfway to his goal of $2,021. To help him achieve his goal or to set your own goal, join the ’21 Challenge for Cancer Research today.


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