Area teens raise money, awareness for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

  • Kelly Robinson, a freshman at Prospect High School, organized a blood drive as a way to raise awareness for her fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

    Kelly Robinson, a freshman at Prospect High School, organized a blood drive as a way to raise awareness for her fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Courtesy of Kelly Robinson

 
Updated 2/17/2021 6:19 AM

Kelly Robinson of Mount Prospect is in her freshman year at Prospect High School, but already she's tackling big projects.

Last month, she assembled a team and launched a series of fundraisers aimed at raising money and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as part of its Students of the Year program.

 

They included a visit by Stan's Donuts to the Prospect High School campus, a blood drive in Arlington Heights, and recruiting Kendra Scott jewelry store in Deer Park to donate 20% of its online sales the last weekend in January.

Turns out, she's not alone. In all, there are 46 students on 26 teams in the Chicago area raising money for the organization. Locally they include teens from Barrington, Deerfield, Elk Grove, Huntley and St. Viator high schools.

Amy Koziol, left, and Jeanne McCue, both of Mount Prospect, were among the supporters who turned out to donate blood in support of Kelly Robinson's team.
Amy Koziol, left, and Jeanne McCue, both of Mount Prospect, were among the supporters who turned out to donate blood in support of Kelly Robinson's team. - Courtesy of Kelly Robinson

In Kelly's case, the drive is personal. Her family has been supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for 10 years, ever since a family friend, 10-year-old Molly Kohl, succumbed to leukemia.

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Last year, at her eighth-grade graduation from South Middle School in Arlington Heights, Kelly was voted by her classmates to receive the Matthew Ives Award, named in honor of the 13-year-old who also died of leukemia, back in 2002.

"(Molly and Matthew) passed away from leukemia at the same ages my brother and sister are now," Kelly says. "I can't imagine my life without my brother or sister. I can't imagine seeing the impact cancer would have on one of my friends' families.

Tim Cody of Downers Grove donated blood in support of Kelly Robinson's team. Kelly, a freshman at Prospect High School, organized a blood drive as a way to raise awareness for her fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Tim Cody of Downers Grove donated blood in support of Kelly Robinson's team. Kelly, a freshman at Prospect High School, organized a blood drive as a way to raise awareness for her fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. - Courtesy of Kelly Robinson

"What I do know is that I can make a difference," she adds, "in the care given to patients and families who do have to face that reality by supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Stephanie Hultgren-Tagliere is a senior at Elk Grove High School. She's assembled a team she calls Steph Stomps Out Cancer. Like Kelly, she has a personal connection, including a friend who beat cancer and both of her great-grandmothers who were diagnosed with cancer.

Stephanie Hultgren-Tagliere, a senior at Elk Grove High School, is leading a Students of the Year team called "Steph Stomps Out Cancer."
Stephanie Hultgren-Tagliere, a senior at Elk Grove High School, is leading a Students of the Year team called "Steph Stomps Out Cancer." - Courtesy of Stephanie Hultgren-Tagliere

While Stephanie is passionate about helping others, and in particular bettering the lives of those battling cancer, she sums up her motivation this way: "I want to be the change and make a difference in the world."

She and her team have gone out and recruited many Elk Grove businesses to participate in the campaign by offering raffle prizes and displaying flyers of her team's mission.

This is the third campaign for Madison Wrzos of Hoffman Estates, who is a senior at St. Viator High School. She became involved after her aunt was diagnosed with leukemia, and since starting this campaign has raised $40,000.

"As a family, we remember, foremost, feeling devastated," Madison says, "but, most importantly, inspired and motivated to do something."

The competition wraps up March 13. However, during its seven-week run, these students are projected to raise at least $600,000 for the LLS mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

At the heart of their mission is this year's honored hero, Ashley Woltman, a leukemia survivor from Glen Ellyn and a senior at Glenbard South High School. Diagnosed at age 11, Ashley spent 160 days in the hospital that year and ultimately received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from a complete stranger.

The Steph Stomps Out Cancer team recently held a virtual fundraising meeting.
The Steph Stomps Out Cancer team recently held a virtual fundraising meeting. - Courtesy of Stephanie Hultgren-Tagliere

Amanda Gutzwiller serves as campaign manager of the Student of the Year program. This is its sixth year, she says, and each year the fundraising competition raises more needed funds in the fight against blood cancers.

"Students of the Year candidates and their teams have made a huge impact on the LLS mission," Gutzwiller says. "Locally, our Illinois campaign has grown in size and revenue significantly year after year."

On the national level, the Students of the Year program is part of the largest revenue generating campaigns, she adds. In 2020, more than 1,000 Student of the Year candidate teams from across the country raised more than $30 million collectively for the LLS mission to cure blood cancers and improve the quality of life for patients and their families.

To support these area teens, visit Kelly's fundraising site at events.lls.org/chi/illinoisSOY21/krobinson.

Find Stephanie's at events.lls.org/chi/illinoisSOY21/shultgrent.

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