New GAMBIT Director

By Kelly Wilkens P'21


2020 has been a year of change in many ways. For me a big change was starting my next chapter at Canisius High School as the new director of special events. I knew I had big shoes to fill as I was stepping into a position where my predecessor, Colleen Sellick P'03, had great success.

More than 15 years ago I started a career as a not-for-profit fundraiser and event planner at the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County. After seven years in not-for-profit I moved into corporate event planning and expanded my event and marketing knowledge through different types of events across the country as well as internationally. 

Many people have asked me why I would leave a job that allowed me to travel to amazing places and attend prestigious events like the Kentucky Derby or a NCAA Championship game. March Madness is indeed my favorite time of year! What it comes down to is this: Four years ago my husband and I made the commitment to send our son, Ben '21, to Canisius. That is a decision we will never regret. Canisius has provided Ben, and so many other young men, with an exceptional academic education as well as spiritual and personal formation. The service projects, retreats, brotherhood and traditions are so important. "Men for Others" is more than a motto -- it's what our young men truly become at Canisius. 

A few weeks after my son’s first day as a freshman he sent me a text. It said, “Thanks mom for everything you do for me." I texted him back and said, “What happened, is everything ok?” His response was, “No mom, everything is fine, it’s Thankful Thursday in Mr. Zera’s class, I just wanted to say thank you." That day, and so many others, are why I wanted to be here, and why I am so happy to be part of this tradition. 

When I walked through the doors of Canisius as a member of the Institutional Advancement Team I was excited, but also a little nervous. GAMBIT XLVI was going to celebrate a 150th years of Canisius and was fully planned to be live. The pandemic was requiring event planners, and many occupations, to pivot into a virtual world. Our biggest fundraiser was not only postponed, but now would need to be virtual. How will we plan a virtual GAMBIT that reflects the exceptional event it has been for so many years? Well, we are finding a way. Colleen Sellick has graciously been consulting with me on an event that will not disappoint. Our online auctions, GAMBIT Home for the Holidays (December 2 – 6), GAMBIT Bowl (February 3 – 7) and GAMBIT XLVI (March 14 – 20), include amazing items. We are also honoring the dedication and commitment of the Jesuit priests who have served Canisius for the past 150 years. Our GAMBIT night production will include alumni, students, faculty and staff. Not only will it be fun, but it will also be a night to remember! 

I look forward to a time when we can meet in person, to celebrate Canisius in true GAMBIT fashion. Until then, know that your continued support has a tremendous impact on the lives of our students. I hope that you will take part in all of our GAMBIT events. Bid high and bid often at our online auctions, raise your virtual paddle to endow our new Jesuit Founders Scholarship, and celebrate with us on March 20, 2021!  Your support will help ensure that a Canisius education remains exceptional for all of our young men for another 150 years! 

Click here for more information on our GAMBIT events.



COVID-19 Update

Find resources here, and the latest on Canisius' response to the pandemic.

Practice Pays Off

Boys currently in 7th grade can take a practice version of the high school entrance exam for free.