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Inspirational Stories



At the age of 13, I became the youngest stem cell donor at Johns Hopkins Hospital. At 15, I am a Student Visionary of the Year in the 2024 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) campaign. LLS has become an integral part of my life over the past two years.

In the spring of 2022, the peaceful life of our family was shattered by my mom’s diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Learning that a stem cell transplant was the only cure, I volunteered to donate my bone marrow to her. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, I underwent a bone marrow harvest procedure but awoke only to find that there weren’t enough stem cells, and the bag of my bone marrow just collected had to be discarded. Overwhelmed by disappointment, yet determined, I decided to proceed with Plan B, this time with a procedure called apheresis. After receiving a daily injection of Neupogen® for four days to stimulate the bone marrow to produce stem cells, I was connected to an apheresis machine, and my peripheral blood was separated to collect the stem cells. These healthy little fighters were then infused into my mom’s veins to rebuild her immune system.

Fast forward two years, I am 15, and my mother is in remission. Throughout the whole ordeal, LLS provided us with valuable resources, patient education, and the hope we desperately needed. The webpage became our main source of information on disease and treatment options. Most importantly, my family never felt alone as LLS connected us with leading world experts and other survivors.

With an AML diagnosis, it is usually a race against time to find a donor. During this battle, I witnessed the bitter reality of others’ struggles. In the same ward where my mom was treated, another patient succumbed to this disease as she could not find a suitable donor in time. The exorbitant medical costs created another barrier to her access to the best lifesaving therapies. This tragedy was a poignant reminder that we need policy changes to make treatments more accessible and affordable.

LLS’s three-pillar mission to fund pioneering research, to provide patient care, and to advocate for systemic legislation changes resonates with me. To give back, I and other high schoolers across the Washington D.C. area worked in teams to raise funds and awareness for LLS’s mission. We all have one vision: a world without cancer.

I dove into my first fundraising campaign with excitement and trepidation. Fortunately, I was paired with campaign manager Sam R. With his contagious enthusiasm, Sam provided me with a campaign roadmap and patiently supported and encouraged me every step of the way. Our campaign started with setting up a personal fundraising webpage to reach friends and families as potential donors. We also created a list of potential corporate sponsors whose missions align with our core values, sending emails and making phone calls to solicit donations. We met with Sam weekly to discuss progress and resolve problems we ran into. The highlight of my campaign was presenting my pitch to Dr. Christine Thayer, the CEO and founder of Thayer Clinical Psychology. In my speech, I shared with her how I was personally affected by cancer, how LLS became a big part of my family’s life and the significant impact our campaign could make. As I progressed through my pitch, I ditched my script and went impromptu. The result was an astounding success. Dr. Thayer was deeply impressed with my presentation and generously contributed to our campaign goal.

With dogged determination and relentless effort, our small team of four raised $25,000! It was an immense honor to be invited to the grand finale in Washington D.C. on March 2, 2024, where I met the other incredible Student Visionaries, campaign managers, and sponsors who were a critical part of this fight. I want to give a special “thank you” to Sam, my campaign manager, for tirelessly working with our team. Without him, we could not have done it.

Standing at the grand finale, I was awestruck by the total of $1.9 million raised by the high school students of the Washington D.C. area this year. In a sudden epiphany, I realized that teenagers like me can actually effectuate meaningful social impact! I may be the youngest stem cell donor at Johns Hopkins for my mom, but the next title I want to conquer is someone who can impact many more people’s lives with my efforts. I encourage you to join the fight alongside me.

Student Visionaries