Lawrence teacher raising funds to help cancer patients


A second-generation educator in Lawrence Township schools is honoring her parents’ memory by raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a nonprofit that helps people who are undergoing treatment for blood cancer.

Leah Beardslee is a kindergarten teacher at Amy Beverland Elementary School, and her parents both worked for the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township — her father was a high school teacher and her mom was the treasurer for Lawrence North and Lawrence Central high schools.

Beardslee’s parents also both died from cancer. Her mom, Pat Norman, had a rare form of brain cancer; and her dad, Barry Norman, had multiple myeloma. Her dad’s cancer and resulting treatment introduced the family to LLS and the services the nonprofit provides. With treatment, he lived with cancer for eight years.

“He had received several grants (from LLS) to cover medication costs that were really expensive and he received a CAR T (T-cell) transplant, and I did not know that the person who did all the research on that and developed that treatment — all of that research was funded by LLS,” she said.

So, when she was nominated to be a “visionary” for the organization’s annual fundraising effort, Beardslee decided she owed it to her dad to help the group that provided so much support for her family.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Visionary of the Year award will go to the nominee who raises the most for the organization. But, Beardslee said, she is not doing it for the award.

“It’s not really about me winning,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to win if I can raise money to support other people that are going through this.”

She said services from LLS were vital to her family.

“When you get a first diagnosis and you get the treatment costs and things like that, it can be really overwhelming and scary, and there are lots of opportunities for support through that organization,” she said, from monetary support to transportation to and from treatment. “Just all kinds of support that you don’t think you need in the beginning.”

Beardslee said her parents were childhood sweethearts and were together until her mom died. Although her mother didn’t have a blood cancer, she said she’s raising the money in honor of both parents.

“She would have wanted to support the (group) that took care of my dad, too,” Beardslee said. “It just felt wrong to leave her off of this. I’m involving family and friends. I’m kind of the face of this campaign but my whole family — I have two siblings — we’re all in this together.”

Beardslee said she wants to raise at least $50,000 through individual donations and sponsorships. For more or to donate, visit