Warriors for a Cure

Skyla Marchesi

The nationwide impact that The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has on the world is not one that should be taken lightly. Since 1949, this nonprofit organization has persistently worked to become the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting, curing, and researching blood cancer, with an initiative focused on a mission to defeat leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and myeloma. In addition to these charitable acts, LLS strives to better the quality of life for patients suffering with blood cancer that has plagued this earth for much too long. Annually, LLS launches a student based campaign, branching out to those who have the ability to make a difference and potentially be the generation to cure blood cancer once and for all. The Students of the Year Campaign is a philanthropic leadership development program targeted at motivated and determined high school students, where chosen participants and team members will learn to foster professional management and entrepreneurship qualities that will in turn boost their personal growth as well as that of LLS’s research efforts. 

During the summer of 2020, despite being quarantined and held isolated inside, a handful of Juniors from Wantagh High School took the leap of faith and ran with the opportunity to join this campaign to make the change. I happen to be one of these individuals. Beginning with three team candidates, Ashley Reisert, Nicholas Bifone, and Haley Leimbach, Warriors For A Cure was born. Representing Wantagh, they wished to prove that they had what it takes to raise the most money in a seven week period for LLS’ s cause, and establish the selfless nature of the Wantagh community. They handpicked around fifteen of their most trusted friends and peers whom they saw had the potential to do great things for the LLS community and who had a motive of their own. I received a message from Ashley in the early months of my junior year, presenting this once in a lifetime experience to give back and be the generation to officially put an end to the distress that blood cancer has generated.

I was instantly pulled in by The Children’s Initiative, something that I had been searching for since the age of five. I have been tied to this movement from the last year of preschool; childhood cancer rooted itself into my life. A best friend of mine, David, did not suffer with blood cancer, yet the initiative that LLS wished to fulfill is one that has the potential to protect all children from the horrible disease. As a child with a rare form of neuroblastoma, he struggled since he was just four years old, undergoing chemotherapy until the age of twelve, when he sadly passed away. It was a tragic death, but I have set my life goal to somehow give back and make David proud. 

The money that we raise in our Warriors For A Cure Campaign would be donated to this life-saving initiative of expediting care and cures for children, adolescents, and young adults with blood cancer. The LLS Children’s Initiative would launch much more dedicated and focused pediatric blood cancer research, boosting plans for the first global precision medicine clinical trial in pediatric leukemia. 

I wish to use my voice, my motivation, and my experience to help drive this initiative into full force. I would want nothing more than to give a portion of my time to potentially save vulnerable children from this monstrous and consuming disease. It was an immediate yes; I knew I had to join Warriors For A Cure. 

We were given seven weeks, from January 28th to March 16th, to raise as much money as possibly for LLS’s cause while competing with other teams in our district of Long Island. Setting the bar high, we carefully selected the fundraising goal of $90,000, knowing that as high schoolers this would be difficult to obtain, but never impossible. We wanted to challenge ourselves, test our leadership and management skills, prove ourselves, and overcome all obstacles to be able to be named The Students Of The Year. 

We have tirelessly worked to plan events, raffles, coin donation jars, sponsorships, email distributions, virtual activities, and school club programs, all focused on achieving one ultimate goal. Instantaneously, I took on most likely more than I could handle, determined to show myself that I could make a difference in a cause so intertwined in my life and close to my heart, reaching out to business owners and company leaders in a way that I never saw possible. Normally quite introverted, I had no choice but to present our cause publicly and proudly, getting over my quiet tendencies and loudly emphasizing the importance of the money we raised. 

My team is about to hit the half-way mark in the fundraising period and I have already completed two events, with countless still in the works or occurring right now. My most favorite would have to be the Virtual Valentine’s Day Cooking Class with Chef Frank Fortunato. Spreading the message in any way possible, I truly did have to adopt a new personality and become an advertiser, joining Baking Facebook groups, sharing posts on every social media platform you could possibly think of, sending mass emails to family and friends, distributing flyers to schools, and even forming extremely useful connections for the future. Making and distributing e-flyers took hours and hours to get right, inserting links, Google Forms registration surveys, sending email confirmations for sign ups, transferring donations from Venmo to my fundraising webpage, the to do list went on and on and on, but it all seemed to be worth it, even if all of the money I raised could only assist one child on one singular day, it would all be worth it to me. 

Participants gathered on Google Meets to make Valentine’s Day treats, learning cooking skills on the way, laughing together, and celebrating the selfless acts of kindness that they had all shown by registering for the class, as all profits would be donated to LLS’s cause. Making molten lava cakes and chocolate covered strawberries made up for the time crunches, stress, and sleepless nights that I had spent delivering all of the event details. I had something to prove. 

Eager for a challenge, I set my personal fundraising goal right away at the highest value, $5,000, and have thus been fixated on nothing but passing this amount. Aside from my own personal events, I can not express how impressed and grateful that my team consists of such persistent and selfless young teenagers, taking the leap of faith using their own moving motivations, heartbreaking tragedies, sadly alike mine, to push themselves even further than imaginable. 

I encourage you to join our journey, put your own struggles aside, discover your own motivations, and support my team, Warriors For A Cure, in our trek to cure blood cancer and launch the LLS Children’s Initiative.