By Jessica Hoover
For the second consecutive year, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is conducting its Students of the Year initiative, a seven-week fundraising competition for high school students. It began Jan. 25 and ends March 17.
Last year, LLS chose five students who raised a combined $238,000 for blood cancer research. This year, one of the students chosen to compete is Caroline Gretencord, a senior at Hamilton Southeastern High School.
Gretencord has been involved with LLS most of her life. Her mom joined the board of trustees after her best friend was diagnosed with leukemia when Gretencord was a child. When Gretencord got older, she joined the fight against blood cancer by going to LLS events. Earlier this year, she took her support of LLS a step further by competing in Students of the Year.
“I have always been involved with LLS because of my mom,” Gretencord said. “But when I actually met with the LLS staff, I just kind of fell in love with the whole thing. I loved the mission and everything that went into how you raise money and where the proceeds go. Then when my aunt got diagnosed with lymphoma, I knew it was meant to be. I found out about her diagnosis right after I heard about Students of the Year, so I just kind of knew it was something I wanted to do.”
Gretencord sends out fundraising emails and letters and solicits corporate sponsorships from companies in the area. She said a large portion of the funds will be raised through a silent auction, and she has been contacting companies for donation items, each of which will be displayed at the Grand Finale March 17 at Tom Wood Aviation. The Grand Finale is a celebration on the last day of the campaign, when the Student of the Year will be announced.
LLS Campaign Manager Jo Garcia said whichever student raises the most money at the end of the seven weeks will be awarded $2,500 to the college or institution of their choice and bestowed the title of Student of the Year. Students also have a chance of winning $1,000 from the Mission Award, presented to the student that has been the best ambassador for LLS in the community.
“We are very proud that we have an entire new generation of high school students participating that want to be the generation that cures cancer,” Garcia said. “We are so proud to be able to work with them and see what their potential really is, because with this generation of students, the sky is the limit.”
Although Gretencord is sorting college options, Butler University is her top choice. She wants to major in biology and minor in Spanish and is considering going into the medical field. She also plans on continuing her involvement with LLS by joining the leadership team or being on the board.
Gretencord, said donating to LLS not only helps find a cure for blood cancers, but other types of cancer, too.
“In the last 60 years, thanks to the generous donations, the survival rate for children with leukemia has gone from 30 percent to 90 percent,” Gretencord said. “As donations keep coming in, the survival rate keeps going up. Researchers are so close to finding a cure for blood cancer, and that gives us hope for other cancers. Blood cancer is relevant to other cancers, like in the kidneys or breast cancer. So, finding a cure for blood cancer can help out other cancer patients.”
To donate to Gretencord’s campaign for Students of the Year, visit her fundraising page, events.lls.org/in/indianasoy2018/cgretencor.
What can you do to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society?
Form a team or volunteer at the Light the Night Walk. On Oct. 6, the Indianapolis community will come together to bring light to the darkness of cancer. The Light the Night Walk celebrates those fighting cancer and honors those who have lost the battle. All proceeds go to LLS’s research to find a cure for blood cancer.
Fundraise through the Student Series campaign. In the program Pennies for Patients, students in elementary and middle school can collect change and raise funds online for LLS. High school students can fundraise through the Collect for Cures program or through Students of the Year.
Register or volunteer for a race. The Team in Training campaign puts on runs, walks, cycling events and triathlons and more around the world. After registering, participants fundraise for LLS while training for the race. If you’re not interested in racing, there are other volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer at your local LLS chapter. Garcia said the LLS staff is always looking for people to help get donor letters ready or to make care packages for cancer patients.