The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s 2023 Student Visionaries of the Year fundraiser is underway, and students across the state are on board.
The seven-week effort is part of a larger philanthropic leadership development program. At Cherry Hill East, the CUREageous and Hooping for Cancer student teams are facing off against other area groups for the challenge, which began this month – February is National Cancer Prevention Month – and ends March 18.
Sophomores Anjali Soni and Rachna Mohan are heading the CUREageous team and Hooping for Cancer is led by Daniyal Rathore and Sameel Hussain. Each team has two student candidates who are team leaders and who work directly with Desiree Salera, campaign development manager for the Student Visionaries of the Year campaign. They also take part in the leadership development while others support and help carry out that mission.
“We really do focus on the goal planning and making sure they have an actionable plan for them to reach their goal.” Salera explained.
Both East teams are passionate about those goals and have different reasons for participating, Salera shared. Soni and Mohan were nominated by the previous CUREageous team, while Rathore and Hussain have created a new one. When the campaign ends, the students can decide whether or not to nominate team candidates for next year.
Soni has previous experience from co-founding the nonprofit Comfort Kits 4 Chemocare, which created and donated 191 kits to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia patients last year, a number she hopes will reach 220 this year.
“What I know of cancer is that it does not see color, age, or culture,” Soni noted. “But what cancer patients have in common is they have courage. They fight, they endure.
“Our Team CUREageous is made of 18 individuals of all ages, color, and cultures all coming together,” she added. “Together we have one united goal to create a world without cancer one day soon, and specifically through this campaign, a world without blood cancers.”
Hussain also had a personal interest in the effort after he lost his grandmother to bile duct cancer.
“Learning that it had no cure made me sad and helpless,” he recalled. “When this opportunity to help others was presented to me, I decided to join in the fundraising with hopes to do my best for others in need by increasing the funds to do research and treatments. (They) are my goals.”
Soni and Hussain will compete against several teams in the area, including three at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees and one at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield. In the nine years since Student Visionaries of the Year began, Salera has seen the reaction from participating students.
“We do a debrief meeting, and they’re blown away by not only what they’ve done, but also the cumulative effort of everyone else,” she observed. “ … We really do see the impact of how, when we come together as a group, we can invite change into our society.”