Teens in the Three Village area are working together to make a difference in the lives of those affected by blood cancers.
On March 8, Ward Melville High School juniors kicked off a seven-week fundraiser in the hopes of winning the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Long Island chapter’s Students of the Year competition. The health agency’s leadership development and philanthropy program not only gives teens the chance to compete against other high school teams to see who can raise the most money for LLS, but also provides guidance and mentoring from the agency’s professionals to assist in fundraising tactics and team building. The mission of LLS is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma. The organization also works to improve the lives of patients and their families through research, patient services and assisting with medical co-pays when needed.
The Ward Melville High School team, called 3vforacure, is led by Jillian Bove and Allison Szema. Bove said the Three Village group wants to raise $50,000, which would beat last year’s winners who raised $38,000.
Bove said she knows from personal experience how important the services of LLS are. Her mother Patricia was diagnosed with stage III Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015. After undergoing six months of aggressive chemotherapy, her mother is presently receiving maintenance treatments with a biological agent.
The high school junior said the agency has provided her and her mother with an emotionally-supportive community, and she’s optimistic about the future when it comes to cancer research and the work LLS is doing.
“Blood cancers are the stem of all cancers so if they find something — which they’ve been having improvements and advancements — then I think they’ll find [a cure] soon,” Bove said.
Szema said even though none of her family members have suffered from blood cancers, a few have been diagnosed with breast and thyroid cancers. She said she not only joined the team because Bove asked her, but also because the research done by LLS will help with other cancer research as well.
Before the March 1 kickoff date, Bove and Szema said the team members sent out 600 letters to all their contacts and attended meetings with LLS representatives. During their fundraising campaign the students will host a badminton tournament March 23 at Ward Melville High School and plan to host a bake sale, sell T-shirts and obtain business sponsorships to raise money.
“It feels great working with everyone, and we all have ideas and are not shy about voicing them,” Bove said.
Meagan Doyle, a campaign manager with the Long Island chapter of LLS, said the competition is a great way for young people to get involved in fundraising.
“It’s a win-win,” Doyle said. “The children are able to do something, give back. They’re able to have this growth experience on their college resume they get that piece of that, and then the organization, we’re able to see such success in their fundraising and the things they are doing.”
“It feels great working with everyone, and we all have ideas and are not shy about voicing them.”
— Jillian Bove
The campaign manager said she thinks the Three Village goal of $50,000 is achievable as Bove and Szema have put a lot of focus on building their team. The 3vforacure team includes Kate Dargan, Samantha Sloan, Jack Bertini, Catherine Jiang, Max Friedman, Adrianna Orduna, Jocelyn Su, Jack Swain, Patrick Sammon, Allison Nemesure, Cassidy Oliver, Casey Hozven and Victoria Amato.
“[Bove and Szema] as candidates, they are taking on such a leadership role in bringing this group together,” Doyle said. “From the organization’s point of view it just makes us proud that they are representing us in their district.”
Active with various teams and clubs at Ward Melville, the girls said finding friends to work with them was easy, and the two quickly put together a group of 15 students. Bove is part of the high school’s robotics club, field hockey team, greenhouse club and track and field. Szema is the vice president of the school’s Key Club, a member of the National Honor Society, ceramics club and the diving team.
Bove and Szema encourage everyone in the Three Village area to join them in their fundraising pursuits.
“It is our big hope that we can spread the message and reach out to as many companies and big businesses that can help us reach our goal,” Bove said.
The 3vforacure team badminton tournament is March 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the gym at Ward Melville High School. The tournament is open to high school students only. Cost is $10 per person and red ribbons will be sold for $1.
Bove and Szema said the amount raised by each school and the winner will be announced April 26, the last day of the competition, at a ceremony held at the Heritage Club in Bethpage. For more information, visit the Instagram page @3vforacure or email [email protected]