BY MICHAEL OLOHAN
OF NORTHERN VALLEY PRESS
NORWOOD, NEW JERSEY —— The clock is ticking.
It’s ticking for Lexi Arnold, who is racing against time to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, in a match against 13 other students in New Jersey selected to participate in a fundraising and leadership development competition.
It’s also ticking because every three minutes one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer and about every nine minutes, someone dies from a blood cancer.
In 2017, about 173,000 people were newly diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, according to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Last year, approximately 58,000 people died from such blood cancers.
“One of the biggest things that got me into this was my cousin, Sammie, who was diagnosed with epilepsy at 10 or 11. That showed me how much people struggle. I don’t want people to have to go through what my family went through,” said Lexi Arnold, reached via phone on Feb. 8.
“I’ve always been into community service and giving back and thought this would be a great opportunity to help,” Arnold said.
Arnold, of Norwood, a 17-year-old junior at Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, is a candidate in the cancer society’s Student of the Year campaign, a seven-week fundraising competition that began Jan. 17 and ends March 9 at the Grande Finale Celebration held in Iselin.
The candidate who raises the most funds earns designation as “Student of the Year” by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a partial college scholarship.
Between now and then, Arnold’s team is doing its best to raise awareness as well as funds for a myriad of blood cancer-related diseases including Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, myeloma, and Myelodysplastic syndromes.
Her team, named Champions for a Cure, includes friends Ashley and Sam Dinerman of Closter, sophomores at NVRHS-Demarest; Richard Rodgers of Norwood, senior at Dwight-Englewood; Maya Simon of Norwood, junior at Dwight-Englewood; Aly Rubin of Norwood, junior at NVRHS-Old Tappan; and Jason Fiske, sophomore from Livingston; and Paige Maizes, junior from Westchester.
Prior to getting involved with the fundraising competition, Arnold and three of her current teammates founded an organization, Change for Good, that offers teens opportunities to get involved and give back to their communities. Some events included a Prom Dress Drive that collected and offered dresses to students from lower-income families. She also leads another group of high school students in efforts to increase awareness of triple negative breast cancer.
In addition to her team’s fundraising page on Facebook, Arnold is planning two upcoming events. She originally set a goal of $15,000, but hopes to at least double that, and possibly even reach $50,000, in which case a grant to be issued by the society will be named after her team, Champions for a Cure.
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 6-8 p.m., a fundraising and awareness event, the LLS Fundraising Bonanza takes place at Sear House restaurant in Closter. It will feature an appearance from an 11-year-old leukemia survivor who will speak about her experience.
The restaurant will donate space and food for the event, which includes a “basket bonanza” including gift cards, foods, hair products, books, and toys.
Also on Sunday, March 4, from 4-8 p.m., Chipotle in Closter will donate 50 percent of proceeds from diners who present a “One for the Team” coupon, or mention Champions for a Cure when paying.
Her mother, Ann, said Lexi and her team has reached out “to their networks of families and friends, and local businesses” to contribute or take out an ad to support the effort.
The final fundraising amounts raised are kept confidential until the March 9 event where the winning team will be announced.
On its Facebook page, Champions for a Cure highlight fundraising events along with a picture of the team. Individuals can also donate to Lexi Arnold’s time-sensitive fundraising campaign at the site.
“Please join me and my team by making a donation to my fundraising campaign. Thanks to your support, my efforts will help fund the therapies and treatments and help save lives today. LLS’s continued advancements over the years are responsible for the blood cancer survival rate doubling and tripling; in some cases, the survival rate has even quadrupled,” states the website.
The website says donations are tax-deductible “and not only support LLS research but patient services, advocacy, public and professional education, and community services as well.”
Photo courtesy Ann Arnold