(RYE BROOK, NY, July 22, 2020) - The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching, and high school students are among those whose lives are being up-ended. Not only is this generation missing many traditional rites of passage, but they are graduating into a frightening world and an uncertain future. But, rather than feeling sorry for themselves, a very unique group of students across the country are facing the challenges head-on and setting an extraordinary example for their peers, parents and, importantly, patients with blood cancer who rely on the support of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), a global leader in the fight against cancer.
LLS’s Students of the Year fundraising campaign brings together thousands of students across the country from diverse backgrounds and experiences who are extraordinarily driven to reach their own personal fundraising best and, ultimately, help LLS fight blood cancer, a disease that is diagnosed every nine minutes in the U.S.
The results of LLS’s 2020 Students of the Year campaign are astonishing. During the seven-week fundraising competition, records were broken and new standards were set. From a one-of-a-kind multicultural talent show, to savvy digital outreach, these young students went above and beyond in their fundraising efforts, contributing to LLS’s investment of nearly $1.3 billion in breakthrough cancer research to find lifesaving treatments.
2020 National Winners of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Students of the Year
Team Fly4aCure co-candidates - 15-year-old Neelam Shah of The Calverton School, in Huntington, MD, and 16-year-old Naggena Ohri of Leonardtown High School in Leonardtown, MD - broke a new fundraising record, raising nearly $450,000 to support LLS.
The unstoppable duo tapped into their creative side, and executed a wildly successful multicultural music and dance show called “Rhythm 2020,” which drew nearly 1,000 attendees and showcased a wide array of talented performers in an evening celebration of diversity and hope.
Shah knows the devastation of cancer all too well, as the disease has struck two of her relatives, both survivors today. “Cancer does not discriminate,” she said, “And it doesn’t just go away during a national health crisis. Students of the Year is not just about winning a title, it’s about the impact we can have when we all come together. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to support LLS, an organization that helped my family in our time of need.”
Shah was inspired to compete in Students of the Year after her brother, Samir Shah, and cousin, Saar Shah, now both 18 years old, originated Team Fly4aCure and won the national title in 2018.
“We are so honored to be named the 2020 National Students of the Year, knowing the money we raised is impacting the future of cancer - together, we will find a cure,” said Ohri.
“The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped LLS from advancing our mission and it sure isn’t stopping these determined, passionate students from their commitment to helping cancer patients,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, PhD, LLS president and CEO. “Patients need us know, more than ever, and LLS is relying on the support of dedicated volunteers and donors, including all of the candidates of our Students of the Year campaign. This program is proof that this next generation of philanthropists have the power to bring people from all backgrounds together to make an impact for patients. They are helping LLS save lives.”
Rounding out this group of exceptional students are Students of the Year 2020 runners up, Team Just Cure It (2.0), recording the second highest amount raised in the campaign's history. Co-candidates 15-year-old Harrison Berger, 15-year-old Alexandra Gatoff and 15-year-old Jake Gershwind of Jericho High School High School in Long Island, NY, raised an incredible total of $430,402. Just like Shah, Harrison was considered a "legacy candidate" as his brother Ryan was on the winning team from the 2019 Students of the Year campaign.
The funds raised through Students of the Year are used for:
- Research to advance lifesaving therapies like immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine, which are saving lives today.
- Free blood cancer information, education and support for patients and families.
- National and local advocacy efforts driving policies that accelerate new treatments and ensure patients have access to care so that they can live longer, healthier lives.
In addition to raising funds for LLS, Students of the Year candidates, through guidance and mentoring from building a multigenerational team, foster professional skills such as entrepreneurship, marketing and project management. To learn more about the Students of the Year program and how you or someone you know can get involved, visit, www.studentsoftheyear.org.
About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is a global leader in the fight against cancer. The LLS mission: cure leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., ET.
The LLS Children’s Initiative: Cures and Care for Children with Cancer
The LLS Children’s Initiative is a $100 million multi-year effort to take on children’s cancer through every facet of LLS’s mission: research, patient education and support and policy and advocacy. The LLS Children’s Initiative includes: more pediatric research grants, a global precision medicine clinical trial, expanded free education and support services for children and families and driving policies and laws that break down barriers to care. To learn more, visit www.lls.org/childrens-initiative.