Ella Behnke of San Antonio, Texas, is a 16-year-old cheerleader who attends Alamo Heights High School and is making history, as the winner of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) national title “Student of the Year.” Ella raised more than $334,768 for LLS to invest in cancer cures with an intense seven-week fundraising campaign involving everything from a very active campaign team, social media activations to visiting cancer patients at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
Ella knows firsthand about battling cancer — she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoblastic lymphoma at the age of two. This made her victory even sweeter, “I’m honored to be able to have an impact for others who are still fighting this disease. I want to help find a cure, I believe I can make a change, I believe I will make a change,” said Ella.
To help spread awareness, Ella, with support from her campaign manager and twin sister Berkley, visited young cancer patients in the hospital and shared their courageous stories on her fundraising page.
Ella is so grateful for her Campaign Team! They helped fundraise tremendously for her. Working as a squad, they used their social media expertise to launch a fundraising page on Facebook, “Open Your Heart with Ella,” where Ella unveiled several fundraising activities including:
- A “sold out” fundraiser comprised of prizes put together by her campaign leaders and families
- “Shop for a Cause,” an exclusive eating and shopping event at local shops, including Penny Lane, Baker Tatum, and Meadow Boutique
- “Crush for LLS,” a baseball fundraiser held at the Gaylard Finley baseball tournament, where $25 was donated every time an Alamo Heights player hit the ball
- “LLS Cheer Challenge,” a social media campaign where local supporters posted videos in various cheering routines, and using the hashtag, #LLScheerchallenge
- The David Clark & David Dikin fundraising event benefiting LLS
In the campaign’s inaugural year, this innovative take on peer-to-peer fundraising conceived by LLS, the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to fighting blood cancers, mobilized more than 400 motivated high school students across the country who raised an astounding total of $6 million for LLS’s cutting-edge cancer research and patient services.
The Students of the Year program is a seven-week campaign in which select high school students participate in a fundraising competition to benefit LLS. The candidates/teams who raise the most money at the end of the competition earn the title Student(s) of the Year. Top local fundraisers become eligible to win the national title. The students raise money in honor of a local patient hero who is currently battling or is in remission from a blood cancer.
Through programs like Students of the Year, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies. The funds raised through Students of the Year are used for:
Research to advance lifesaving therapies like precision medicine and immunotherapies that are saving lives today;
Free blood cancer information, education and support for patients and families;
National and local advocacy efforts for policies that provide access to lifesaving treatments to the patients who need them.
To learn more about the Students of the Year program and how it might work for you or someone you know, visit: www.studentseries.org/high-schools/students-of-the-year
Ella Behnke (far right) with fellow Student of the Year top national fundraisers