I began 2020 with a goal of striving to become like those I’ve always admired: bold, philanthropic, and action oriented. Woman like Michelle Obama and Ava DuVernay. My drive to accomplish this led me to LLS and a wonderful opportunity to do some advocacy and charity work to benefit some of those most vulnerable to COVID-19 while I was in quarantine during the pandemic. More than 1 million Americans are living with blood cancer and countless millions more with other types of cancer.
Three months ago, I assembled a team of friends, colleagues, and family members to help fundraise to support my candidacy for the Man/Woman of the Year (MWOY) for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS; lls.org), the largest blood cancer nonprofit in the world. The LLS MWOY philanthropic campaign empowers individuals in the community to utilize their leadership abilities and resources to conduct their own fundraising campaigns.
LLS is the leading non-profit with a mission to advance patient care, treatment, and advocacy around the country:
- Advanced laws in 43 states and DC to provide fair coverage of cancer treatment (pill form)
- Currently funding 230 research grants around the world, not only to help blood cancer patients but also in clinical trials for patients with solid tumors like breast cancer
- Funded 45 of the 50 new cancer drugs approved by the FDA since 2017
- Has nearly 8000 volunteers worldwide to provide direct support to patients and families in the community navigate diagnosis through treatment, clinical trials and survivorship
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, cancer patients are now faced with the threat of a virus that they’ll be all the more vulnerable to due to their compromised immune system and often due to their still-present need for hospital care; we don’t want this group to be forgotten so we are committed to rallying together to for this cause. Since April 1, LLS has provided $4.8 million in financial assistance to over 19,000 patients who are struggling during COVID-19.
LLS has also impressed me with their programs like Myeloma Link, which highlights and disparities in myeloma diagnoses as well as patient knowledge, treatment, and care disproportionately impacting African American communities. Myeloma Link was initiated in 2017 in partnership with the National Black Church Initiative in response to Black Americans being twice as likely to develop myeloma than White Americans, less likely to receive the newest therapies, and more likely to experience treatment and transplant delays. Myeloma Link increases knowledge of available treatments and resources and encourages patients and caregivers to use a new, sustainable support infrastructure. Atlanta was one of the two pilot cities for this program, which is now available in 13 cities around the country.
This being said, I especially chose to use to focus my campaign on educating the community and highlighting disparities in the African American community regarding cancer care, a population that has also been especially greatly impacted by COVID-19:
- African Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to be diagnosed with and die from multiple myeloma, with rates expected to increase over the next two decades
- African American women are much more likely than white women to die of breast cancer
- For racial and ethnic minorities, diseases tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and they may have a harder time finding stem cell donors on the current registries
My fundraiser for LLS raised just about $21.5K in just 10 weeks! Not bad for a first-time fundraiser. I dedicated this campaign to my 2 aunts, colleagues, and past classmate (Sharika Duncan) who have battled cancer. There has been those who have survived, and there have been those we have lost.
In total, between the 20 of us in the 2020 MWOY candidate class and the All-Star Lexie’s Legacy Team, we raised over $1.6 million in 10 weeks! It’s incredible. I didn’t take home the coveted WOY title but did win one of the two LLS MWOY Citizenship Awards – the Community Involvement Award for my outreach and representation of LLS in the community. I so appreciate being recognized. This has been an amazing experience. I have committed to volunteering (virtually) for the rest of the year for LLS’s Myeloma Link in order to do some more rewarding charity work. I’ll keep everyone posted on my volunteering efforts!