Pacers Lily Barna and Seba Marin-Quiros have been nominated for the honor
Lakeridge High School sophomores Lily Barna and Seba Marin-Quiros are candidates in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Student of the Year campaign, and they're part of an elite group.
Only seven teams, with one to three candidates apiece, have been nominated in the regional competition. To participate, the teams will be kicking off fundraising campaigns next week, and the Lakeridge team already has events planned for its seven-week effort.
The two Pacers dream of raising $50,000 to support LLS. Each dollar counts as a vote, so when the candidates are raising funds, they're also raising votes.
"We're setting some pretty high goals for ourselves, but we're excited to meet them," Barna says.
The campaign kickoff day is Jan. 19, and the Lakeridge team plans to start with an all-day event at California Pizza Kitchen (7315 S.W. Bridgeport Road, No. 102, Tigard, in Bridgeport Village). Twenty percent of food and nonalcoholic beverage sales for the whole day (11 a.m.-9 p.m.) will be donated to the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
LLS is the largest voluntary health agency in the world that's dedicated to blood cancer. It contributes to blood cancer research, raises awareness about cancer and offers support services to patients.
This is the fourth year that the Oregon/Southwest Washington/Idaho/Montana (OSWIM) Chapter has participated in the competition and the first year that students have had their own category. The chapter's office is in Portland, so all local participants are from Oregon and Southwest Washington. But the competition is a national fundraiser, with other chapters holding their own events.
Last year, 16 chapters held competitions; this year, there are 40 chapters holding events for Student of the Year. There will be national winners in the Woman and Man of the Year categories as well.
Previously, students nationwide were wrapped up with the Woman and Man of the Year events, but while the students were doing amazing things, they lacked the resources and experience of the adults and sometimes got overshadowed, says Lisa Little, an OSWIM Chapter campaign specialist. This year, the students will be getting more attention.
"They deserve it," Little says. "They're doing awesome stuff."
The local kids have other awesome events planned in addition to their kickoff event. The Lakeridge group is in the midst of planning a 5K run in March, Marin-Quiros says.
He and Barna, who are both active in the Associated Student Body, are no strangers to helping others. Marin-Quiros recently led a Pink Week fundraiser to help fight breast cancer, and Barna spearheaded a fundraiser for Abby's Closet, which provides gowns and accessories for young women in need who want to attend formal dances.
They both say they were looking for another opportunity to help.But it's not just for their generosity of spirit that Barna and Marin-Quiros are known as leaders of the sophomore class at Lakeridge, says Emy Morton, a Lakeridge sophomore on their campaign team. They're people you "can talk to" who know "the ins and outs of Lakeridge," Morton says.
A couple of other key supporters on the team are Lakeridge sophomores Jane Filiault and Eva Augst.
"We really think this is a very important cause," Augst says. "And … it gives us an opportunity to help in the real world."
Every team has a real-life survivor as the face of its campaign; for the Lakeridge team, it's Elijah Diggins, a senior who plays on the varsity baseball team at Tualatin High School. At age 13, Diggins was diagnosed with Burkitt's leukemia. Burkitt's is an uncommon type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a cancer that begins in cells that are called lymphocytes. Little says Burkitt's responds well to treatment, but because it is a fast-growing cancer, the treatment is aggressive.
An Oregon Health & Science University article says Diggins fought the cancer with "bravery and class." In his honor, the Lakeridge students named their team ComBat cancer, capitalizing the "B" as a nod to Diggins' skills on the ball field.
For all of their hard work supporting people like Diggins, the Lakeridge students and the other Student of the Year candidates will be honored at a gala from 6-10 p.m. on March 10 in the Exchange Ballroom (123 N.E. Third Ave. in downtown Portland). The event, which costs $75 per person to attend, features dinner, a disc jockey, live entertainment and both live and silent auctions. Organizers are seeking monetary and in-kind donations for the auctions, so there are many opportunities to help, Barna says. Donations to the team will support the event, which Little says is a chance to see "awesome kids."
"It's really inspiring," she says.