Kiley Cassidy, an Archbishop Spalding sophomore and Severna Park resident vying for Student of the Year with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), knows how much progress has been made in the fight against blood cancers.
“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,” said Cassidy. “Drugs first approved for blood cancers are now approved to treat patients with stomach cancers, skin cancers, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. We really are changing the face of blood cancer and beyond!”
Survival rates have improved due to research, and research is costly. The LLS created Student of the Year, a philanthropic leadership development program in which high school students hone professional skills such as entrepreneurship, marketing and project management, to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The title Student of the Year is awarded to the candidate who raises the most funds for LLS during a seven-week competition. Half of the funds will support pediatric cancer patients currently in the hospital, and the other half will go to research.
High school students must be nominated to be part of the program, though Cassidy doesn’t know who nominated her. Her nominator was likely an administrator or teacher at Spalding who knew of Cassidy’s passion for service in her community, but it’s unlikely that person knew of Cassidy’s prior connection to LLS. Cassidy readily accepted the LLS challenge on behalf of her grandfather, Donn Davis, who lost his battle to multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in 2006.
LLS contacted candidates in October 2019 with instructions to form a team and a marketing plan to fundraise. With a plan in place, the competition opened in mid-January with the students having just seven weeks to raise as much money as they can before the competition closes on March 7. A gala will be held that night at the BWI Marriott, where the winner will be announced.
Participants are also assigned to a young leukemia or lymphoma patient who serves as their inspiration throughout the competition. Cassidy and her team were introduced to Emma, a 10-year-old whose blood cancer is in remission.
Cassidy’s team of nine friends, including Meredith DePole, also a Spalding student and Severna Park resident, came up with the name Be CUREageous, created a website, developed a list of companies and individuals to solicit donations and designed custom Purvida bracelets to sell. To date, Cassidy has raised nearly $30,000 for LLS.
Cassidy is one of just 17 students in the northern Maryland division LLS competition and the only student from Anne Arundel County. Should her team be the top fundraiser, Cassidy will be elevated to the national competition.
“This has been a very cool experience because everyone you know has been impacted by cancer; it’s a cause everyone can relate to,” added Cassidy. “Everyone always tells me how great this is and how proud they are of me for doing this, and I am really proud of myself to be doing it.”
Cassidy and DePole have been nominated to be on the leadership board for LLS, ensuring that these two young altruists will be involved long into the future.
“I am so excited and happy to be doing this; I love that I know where the money is going,” added Cassidy, who toured the Johns Hopkins research lab as part of this program. “Service is very important to me. I want to stay involved, and I’m really proud to now be part of the leadership board.”
To donate to Be CUREageous or to purchase a bracelet, visit www.events.lls.org/md/MDSoY20/kcassidy.