(L-R) Sophomores Marissa Govic and Shalizeh Thobani run their fundraising table at a recent Pace basketball game. Photo: Marissa Govic

This year, 23 Pace students joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) in their mission to “cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.” LLS has donated over $1.3 billion to blood cancer research and has helped improve all but five of the 39 FDA approved blood cancer treatments.

Also, LLS advocates for blood cancer patients by working to pass policies that will aid the patients’ journey. Along with research and advocacy, LLS offers patient support in the forms of financial support, information specialists and support groups.

Every year, LLS puts on a seven week competition called Students of the Year. “Students of the Year is a philanthropic leadership development program for exemplary high school students,” according to the LLS website. “During the campaign, participants foster professional skills such as entrepreneurship, marketing and project management in order to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.” The students who raise the most money in the seven weeks are named Students of the Year. The Secure the Cure team was runner-up in the Students of the Year competition.

This year’s team, Secure the Cure, was led by juniors Caroline Janki and Emily Butler, along with sophomore Marissa Govic. “My nine-year-old cousin was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a couple years ago and I wanted to do my part so other kids wouldn’t have to go through the same hardships he did and could have the best treatments possible,” said Janki.  Sophomore Margo Kaye also had a personal reason for joining Secure the Cure. “I wanted to do it in honor of my grandfather who is still fighting a form of blood cancer and it’s a great way to get involved in support of a great organization,” she said. 

The Secure the Cure team worked hard writing letters, holding bake sales and attending meetings. “We do so much,” said Janki. “We have been meeting with possible corporate sponsors since November and, on top of that, we tried to do some fun stuff like having tables at the basketball games and bake sales.”  Each team member was responsible for their personal fundraising as well.

“As a team member, we had to help spread awareness and information about LLS to friends, family and others through email, letters and meetings,” said sophomore Shalizeh Thobani. In order to receive an invitation to the Student of the Year Gala held on Feb. 28 at the InterContinental Buckhead, a team member had to have individually raised at least $2,500. 

“My goal was to make a difference by raising funds and bringing awareness to the LLS mission,” said Govic. She wants people to understand the severity of blood cancer, and for others to see the impact that LLS is making. “Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with blood cancer, and leukemia is the No. 1 most diagnosed form of childhood cancer,” said Govic. “Since the early 1960s, five-year survival rates for many blood cancer patients have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled, and many LLS supported therapies not only help blood cancer patients, but are helping patients with other cancers and serious diseases.”


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