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Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo begins 'Phil's Mafia' fundraiser in memory of founder

Phil Haberstro recently died following a stroke. He was also diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer earlier this year.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Phil Haberstro is a Buffalo native, who founded the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo in 1989.

Haberstro passed away last week after suffering from a stroke. He had also been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer this year. 

He did it to help create a healthier Buffalo, and now that he's gone, the institute's executive director, Lucy Connery, hopes to continue his mission and legacy.

"We have had such a mafia of people supporting us and wanting to help and wanting to honor Phil and all the things he's done for the community," Connery said. 

The institute is putting on a fundraiser called 'Phil's Mafia' fundraiser, where it's asking people to donate $30 for the 30 years Phil ran the nonprofit.

Nearly 200 people have already donated.

The wellness institute is a nonprofit focused on creating healthy communities through programs such as community walks, health fairs and policy advocacy.

For example, Connery says that this year, Phil helped to get legislation passed that bans the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

It's things like that which have his team struggling with the loss. 

"Really what we're struggling with is just the backbone of it because that was Phil. Phil is just so passionate and this is his life. That's very unique because that's what he loved to do. He was working up until and hour before he passed away," Connery said. 

She says the community has also consistently relied on the Wellness Institute during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was almost a blessing in disguise because people are opening their eyes to how important our health and wellness is. It's been really great to see that culture change, that culture shock so we've actually been still working, still sending out our wellness kits and trying to make the healthier choices the easier one for all of us at home," Connery said. 

You can donate by clicking here or you can send in a check.