(Garrett Estrada photo) Pictured from left to right: Maki Lester, Jim Lester and Donna Lani stand in front of their wing fundraiser stand on Sept. 12.

(Garrett Estrada photo)
Pictured from left to right: Maki Lester, Jim Lester and Donna Lani stand in front of their wing fundraiser stand on Sept. 12.

Jim and Maki Lester have both felt the impact if losing a loved one to cancer. The disease took Jim Lester’s mother at the young age of 47. Both of Maki’s parents battled with cancer, with only her mother surviving. The fight against cancer is so prevalent that most people are likely to have either gone through it personally or known someone who has.

With the help of a family recipe passed down from his mother, Jim Lester and his wife are fighting back.

Standing outside the White Pine Care Center on Sept. 12, Lester sold his signature buffalo wings as a way to raise money for his Relay for Life team. According to Lester, the wings he sells, along with his hot sauce filled mason jars, are comprised of 95 percent of his mother’s original recipe. Selling the food to raise money for Relay for Life is Lester’s way of honoring the woman that raised him while sharing her knack for spicy flavor.

“I’m proud of what we do. I’m proud of the Relay for Life team that I’m on for raising as much money as they do each year. It means a lot to me to be able to pass on what my mom taught me,” Lester said.

Lester joined the WPCC Relay for Life Team three years ago with his wife after being inspired by how involved the rest of the local community was. After looking for a way to help out, he found his answer in the food he had grown up eating in Buffalo. After receiving rave reviews from his coworkers at the prison, Lester figured more people might be interested in his authentic buffalo wings.

Turns out he was right.

Helped by the sale of his wings, the WPCC team raised $7,747 last year for cancer research through Relay for Life. With the new year long cycle for fundraising having just started on Sept. 1, Lester is hoping wing sales like the one outside of WPCC will be able to surpass that for next year.

“This is something good, something important. I’m glad that people seem to like the wings but for me it is all about being a part of this team and raising money for a good cause,” Lester said.

Lester’s wife Maki has helped with the fundraisers since day one. Having been raised in Japan, Maki Lester said she remembers seeing Relay for Life events growing up. Now being half a world away, she said it shows the importance of the event that it can transcend cultures and languages to fight for one cause.

“Relay for Life is not just an American event, it is held worldwide. It means a lot to me to know that the money we raise here could go to help someone like my mother back in Japan who survived cancer. Just like their events could help people here,”she said.

Their Relay for Life team leader Donna Lani said the Lesters have been huge in their time volunteered to raise money.

“These are two amazing people. We couldn’t raise the money we do without their help and without Jim’s wings,” Lani said.

The team’s fundraising efforts extend beyond just the messy delicacies, ranging into cancer awareness and survivor ribbons and more, but none stand out quite like Lester’s mix of secret ingredients. While his next wing sale won’t be until Super Bowl Sunday in February, Lester said locals interested in picking up some of his signature wing sauce need only to contact him via Facebook.

“This recipe has been in my family since the ’70s. It’s the good stuff,” Lester said.