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How Two High School Juniors Raised Over $50,000 for Cancer Research

Two Woodward juniors worked together to raise more than $50,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), blowing past their goal of $35,000. How did two high school students raise such an incredible sum over a short span of seven weeks? We asked Shayna Patel and Lauren Stoeckel to tell us more about their accomplishment and commitment to service.

First, tell us a bit about yourselves.

Shayna: I have been at Woodward for 13 years, since pre-K. My favorite subjects are history and ceramics. However, my greatest satisfaction has been from contributing my time on the Service Leadership Board. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved being involved with service projects whether through school or the Girl Scouts. Now that I am in high school, I am honored to be part of the Service Leadership Board. I love helping make decisions regarding how to approach a new service project or how to continue growing our existing charities. The Student of the Year fundraiser on behalf of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was something new that had not been introduced at Woodward yet, so it was great that Lauren and I could start a new service project at school.

Lauren: I came to Woodward in the ninth grade. I’m a captain of the varsity girls lacrosse team, and I’m involved in several clubs like the Environmental Awareness Club, Spirit Club, and Woodward Serves. Most of all, I enjoy giving back to the community that has provided me with so many opportunities. One of the ways I give back is through my role on the Service Leadership Board. I want to continue to spread awareness for worthy causes like the LLS and further my involvement in service leadership.

Why did you choose to support LLS in particular instead of another cause?

Shayna: As members of the Service Leadership Board, we were presented with this unique opportunity to raise money for blood cancers. We learned that leukemia and other blood cancers have the lowest survival rates among children and teens, and we felt inspired to help. It is heartbreaking to know how leukemia can devastate so many families and affect children and teenagers just like us.

Lauren: l remember thinking that nobody should have to go through that, especially at our age. LLS is the largest organization in the world dedicated to curing blood cancers; it funds life-saving research that has led to medical breakthroughs for ALL cancers. I chose LLS because I wanted to be a part of the fight against cancer on a large scale.

How did you raise such a large sum?

Lauren: The key to our success was organization and planning. In the months leading up to our campaign, we assembled a team of other Woodward juniors to fundraise with us, wrote hundreds of letters and emails to everybody we knew, and set up meetings with influential business leaders to ask for support. We were able to raise so much money by spreading the word to as many people as possible, and, more importantly, by spreading awareness about WHY we were fundraising: to fight blood cancer!

Why did you undertake this together as a duo?

Shayna: It felt like an overwhelming challenge to take on alone, and we felt as a team we could bring different skills and strengths to the table. We realized if we worked together, we could we split tasks such as drafting weekly emails and preparing business presentations and reach out to different communities to have a greater sphere of influence.

Who were your biggest supporters?

Shayna: Our biggest supporters were our friends and family. We were blown away by the amount of support we received. It was amazing to see how much our friends and family believed in us and the LLS. We also had the support of two LLS staff members, Kristi and Chantal, who served as our mentors. They helped us brainstorm and organize ways to raise awareness and funds and called us every week to check in how we were doing and to see if we had any challenges. They were our personal cheerleaders.

Lauren: I also want to acknowledge the role that Woodard played in supporting us. First of all, we wouldn’t have even known about the opportunity without Woodward. Ms. Ronda Zents let us use her room a few times a week, giving up her lunch period so that we could have a quiet place to conference with our LLS mentor and make a plan for the week. Also, we are so grateful for the generous donation Woodward made on behalf of our fundraiser.

Are there any other causes you support?

Shayna: Last summer I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at Woodward’s sister school, Terranova, in Zambia. We brought over textbooks, microscopes, medical supplies, and stationery. While were were there, we helped set up a new library, performed basic eye tests for students, and engaged with the students. Terranova will always be dear to my heart and a cause I support. As a Service Leader, I am committed to the Terranova Team, which raises funds and supplies through our carnation sales and dodgeball tournaments. I’ve also traveled to Uganda and Tanzania, where our family has supported two schools and will continue to do so.

Lauren: As a member of the Service Leadership Board and Woodward Serves, I give back to the community as often as possible, from bringing in peanut butter or canned food to support our drives to brainstorming new ways for Woodward students to get involved to tutoring at the Jesse Draper Boys & Girls Club.

Why do you think it’s important to support worthy causes like LLS?

Shayna: Sometimes our biggest satisfactions are achieved by giving back and being philanthropic. In our society, we can easily take simple things for granted so it’s nice to give back to worthy causes like LLS. It’s also important to learn about their mission and find out why they are doing what they are doing. As we got more involved, we learned that the LLS is funding researchers who have recently revolutionized the way blood cancers can be treated. For example, the CAR T-cell therapy was approved by the FDA to treat leukemia and is now being tested for other cancers.

Lauren: It’s so important to support causes like LLS because this allows us to get involved in our communities and truly make a difference. It puts everything in perspective because you realize that the most important thing you can do is leave something better than you found it. It’s so important to help others and to better our communities because we have the power to make a difference. We should use that to make the world a better place.


Beyond the Gate Editors

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