RYE BROOK, N.Y., May 30, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new generation of teenage philanthropists, «Generation Z,» is redefining what giving looks like in today’s charity and community service environment. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is helping to foster these committed young philanthropists, many of whom have been touched directly by cancer, through its innovative new fundraising campaign – «Students of the Year.»

The San Antonio Students of the Year Class of 2017. Pictured on the far right is 2017 National Student of the Year, Ella Behnke.

In its inaugural year, this innovative take on peer-to-peer fundraising conceived by LLS, the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to fighting blood cancers, mobilized more than 400 motivated high school students across the country who raised an astounding total of $6 million for LLS’s cutting-edge cancer research and patient services. Candidates for Students of the Year sign up for a fierce seven-week fundraising competition, for which they appeal to family and friends to raise critical funds, which LLS deploys to advance breakthrough treatments and to support the more than 1.3 million blood cancer patients in the U.S.

One fundraising superstar, and cancer survivor, 16-year-old Ella Behnke of San Antonio, TX, a cheer leader who attends Alamo Heights High School, earned the winning title, «National Student of the Year,» raising more than $334,768 for cancer cures. Her dynamic campaign included activating her social network to fundraise and securing local sponsors. Ella also visited cancer patients in the hospital and addressed local community groups and the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

Ella knows firsthand about battling cancer — she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoblastic lymphoma at the age of two-and-a-half. This made her victory even sweeter, «I am extremely grateful to be named National Student of the Year for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This victory is not just about my own battle with cancer, but I’m honored to be able to have an impact for others who are still fighting this disease,» said Ella.

Ella kept her campaign in the family, with her twin sister, Berkley, serving as her committee chair. «Naturally, I want to do whatever I can to support my sister and learn more about blood cancer, and this fundraising campaign gave us the opportunity to do something together, with our friends and family, to help make a difference for all people fighting these terrible diseases,» said Berkley.

Through programs like Students of the Year, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies. The funds raised through Students of the Year are used for:

  • Research to advance lifesaving therapies like precision medicine and immunotherapies that are saving lives today.
  • Free blood cancer information, education and support for patients and families.
  • National and local advocacy efforts for policies that provide access to lifesaving treatments to the patients who need them.

The Influencers of Tomorrow

Millennials have built a reputation for being relentless philanthropists, but experts studying Generation Z are calling this group of teens and under «millennials on steroids» (Williams, A., September 18, 2015, Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z, The New York Times).

«The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has a legacy of developing innovative fundraising approaches, like Team In Training, Light The Night and now Students of the Year,» explained Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS president and CEO. «By tapping into this new generation of givers, LLS is again reinventing philanthropy for a new generation. We aim to keep these millennials engaged in our mission throughout their life, by working with them to find new and different ways to have an impact on the cancer landscape. Students of the Year is proof that the youngest generation has the power to help us create a world without cancer.»

Candidates come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. But they also have characteristics in common: They are all compassionate and driven to reach their own personal fundraising best. They also tend to be dynamic, outgoing, and well-connected. All candidates fundraise in honor of a local blood cancer survivor who is honored throughout their campaign.

In addition to Ella, other top national fundraisers were Julia Strittmatter and co-candidate Hannah Sellinger raising $126,172; Sophie Blasberg and co-candidate Molly Levine raising $124,462; Alexis Areias and co-candidate Ryan Fitzgerald raising $106,857; Gus Robertson raising $102,272; Mason Klain raising $ 98,696; and Kyle Fritschi raising $95,081.

«On top of creating a world without cancer, this is the leadership development and philanthropy program that ensures high school students stand out among their peers when engaging with colleges and future employers. Through guidance and mentoring from experienced professionals at LLS – a non-profit with a track record of success – they will make a real impact in the fight against blood cancers,» said Andrew Coccari, LLS EVP and Chief Product Officer.

Whether you are a school teacher, guidance counselor, a parent or a student, to learn more about the Students of the Year program and how it might work for you or someone you know, visit: www.studentseries.org

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

Contact: Kristin Hoose
(914) 821-8973

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SOURCE The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society