No effort too small for Students of the Year participants
Although West Linn freshman Taelyn Haney has no immediate ties to people who have died from blood cancers, she still wants to fight for a cure.
Haney's goal is to raise a minimum of $50,000 to help raise money for blood cancer research and support services as part of the 2020 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) Students of the Year campaign.
For the sixth year locally, and fourth year nationally, LLS is running its Students of the Year program — a seven-week philanthropy effort where high school students compete to raise funds for the fight against cancer.
For the local chapter, candidates from various high schools around Oregon and Southwest Washington are chosen from the LLS leadership committee, which is made up of business, education and community leaders. The candidates then form teams within their own social networks and work to raise money from Jan. 18, 2020, through March 8, 2020.
The mission of LLS is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families by funding lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and providing free information and support services. So far, LLS has funded 39 of 44 blood cancer treatments approved by the FDA since 2017.
"I thought it was super cool, and I wanted to help save lives and raise money," Haney said. "What got me wanting to actually do this is I want to be a pediatric doctor when I grow up and LLS kids could have leukemia or lymphoma, so (I want to be) helping them get money or helping them out."
This year, the 10 local candidate teams raised $183,000 and in 2018, candidate teams raised $265,000. In 2017, the total raised nationally was more than $41 million.
"We're funding blood cancer research but we're also giving young people the opportunity to impact and save lives," said Jordan Earls, campaign manager for Students of the Year. "The students who are involved in this program are quite exceptional."
Last year's Students of the Year winner was Mountainside High School student Bryce Dahlgren — who nominated Haney as a Students of the Year leader this year.
Haney already has started creating a team of family members called "Kickin' Out Cancer."
She plans to hold restaurant fundraisers, auctions and solicit donations. She's currently in the planning and brainstorming part of the process.
Since becoming part of the campaign, Haney has learned about the different blood cancers and the research that has happened over the past 10 years. And she has met people who have made an impact on her.
Haney and her mother, Sloan, attended an LLS barbecue this summer and met blood cancer survivors.
"We got to talk to them and talk about the process and what the money does, because I think it's important that Taelyn understands this is a great learning experience to be philanthropic at such a young age and learn these wonderful business skills of fundraising and then to be passionate about learning what you're raising funds for," Sloan said. "Whether you win or lose, it's (about) learning (and) knowing that you can make a change even though you're young."
Neither Sloan nor her daughter knew what to expect heading into this campaign.
"Meaning rewarding-wise, emotionally (and) how much work we think is going to go into it. But I think when she's really into it and starts seeing what she's accomplished, I think this is where she's just going to grow," Sloan said.
"She's going to have to learn how to speak to companies, talk to presidents, talk to store managers and ask for things for auction items. I think in the next couple months there's going to be a lot of growth. She'll be more comfortable with it, finding her purpose."
LLS is still accepting nominations for Students of the Year teams. Student leaders can apply for the 2019-20 program at studentsoftheyear.org. For more information, visit https://www.lls.org.
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