Student-led group raises $83K for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

East junior and Shawnee sophomore head Silver Linings Team

In the span of seven weeks, student-led Team Silver Linings raised $83,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which was celebrated at the Student of the Year end-of-campaign gala on March 19. From left to right are James DiBlasi, Emma Balanca, Usra Aslam, Sophie Ahsan, Ayza Sayany, Zanna Ahmad, Crystal Yeh. (Special to The Sun/The Sun).

A team led by two local students achieved second place last month for fundraising during the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year Campaign fundraising event.

Team Silver Linings was led by Cherry Hill East junior Ayza Sayany and Shawnee High sophomore Sophie Ahsan. During the society’s seven-week fundraising period, the group raised $83,000 in a competition with 14 other South Jersey teams, including one from Cherry Hill East.

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The Student of the Year Campaign is a national program run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that began in 2014. It provides student team leaders the opportunity to work with campaign development managers at the nonprofit to develop a fundraising goal and how to accomplish it. Funds are used to provide research, access to treatment and advocacy for patients and families.

“(Students) don’t realize how powerful they are as a group when they start these goal-planning meetings,” said Desiree Salera, campaign developer manager for the Student of the Year program at the society. Team Silver Linings’ initial goal was $50,000.

The team began to implement its plan in January and continued through March. While campaign managers assist students and help prepare meetings, the effort itself is primarily student-led. Outreach can only take place once the campaign has started, and team members are not to disclose the amount they have raised with anyone until the campaign ends. 

Sayany and Ahsan got involved with the society after they were nominated by last year’s Team Silver Linings leader, Zanna Ahmad, a student from Eastern Regional High School who served as a team member this year. This year’s team consisted of 10 students from Cherry Hill East, Eastern and Shawnee.

During the campaign, Sayany and Ahsan organized two fundraisers, one at Karachi Kafe in Voorhees and another at Pat’s Pizza in Marlton. They met weekly to go over campaign plans, consulted with sponsors and business leaders to secure sponsorships and collected items for an auction to be held at a campaign gala. 

“I definitely learned to be more of a confident person,” Sayany reflected. “(The campaign) helped me be more of a team leader.”

To raise money, she sent more than 200 letters to local businesses and organizations,  conducted an email campaign, sent texts and went door to door campaigning, ultimately raising $47,000 of the team’s final $83,000.

“ … Asking for money from random people is a pretty big thing to do, so I was proud of myself for having the courage to be able to do that,” Sayany said.

To participate in next year’s campaign, go to

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