What happens when a student committed to philanthropy finds her passion? Great things, for sure! That is what junior Grace Johnston discovered when she took her involvement in Sanford’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) student club to another level.
In August 2017, she accepted a challenge from one of the society’s directors and decided to try to earn this year’s LLS Student of the Year award. It is directly linked to fundraising efforts.
Not only did Johnston win this honor, she did so by raising a record-setting $62,312.22. As a result, she has earned a $2,500 college scholarship, but what pleases her the most is that she has a voice in managing the portion of the funds that exceeded her lofty $50,000 goal. “I have already started the process of working with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to use the money to fund a research program involving childhood blood cancers,” stated Johnston. She continued, “My family and I, fortunately, do not have direct connections to any forms of blood cancers, but I became very passionate about the cause. I knew that I wanted to do more to help combat the illnesses and raise funds for research.”
When Johnston decided to accept the challenge of trying to become the LLS Student of the Year, she reached out to several friends and ultimately led a team of four: Chloe DiCamillo and Claire Jester from Sanford School, Devin Houston from Archmere Academy, and Annabel Gioffre from Ursuline Academy. She also received assistance and support from Sanford teachers Laurence Birkett and Brianna Smale. Johnston spent over 200 hours working on this challenge and coordinated numerous fundraisers. Some of her work included: a Father/Daughter Waffle Breakfast, a “Red Out” at a boys’ basketball game with red T-shirts sold in advance and at the door, a “Taco Night” at La Tonalteca Restaurant in Hockessin, and a hot yoga class at the Hockessin Athletic Club.
Additionally, Johnston used emails and phone conferencing to reach out to family, friends, and business men and women with connections to her family. “This experience has definitely helped me to learn to ask for what I want. When your goals are not self-serving, others recognize that passion and commitment and they will find ways to be supportive. You cannot be shy when lives are on the line.” Johnston received email updates throughout the process from LLS, which explained where the funds raised were going and what was happening relative to blood cancer research. “Those communications kept me going,” said Johnston. “I knew I could not quit. In fact, I was inspired to work even harder.”
Johnston will continue her work with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a summer intern, where one of her responsibilities will be to assist with special programs. She will also work with adults vying for LLS’s Man and Woman of the Year designations. “I know I am just a teenager, but I do understand how to plan and execute fundraising activities. I am excited to work with anyone of any age who wants to raise money for blood cancer research. I intend to be involved with this cause for a long time,” concluded Johnston.
We congratulate Grace for her designation as the LLS Student of Year and commend her for outstanding efforts to benefit blood cancer research.