Giving back: ESHS junior raises money Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Eureka Springs High School student athlete Grayson Ertel is adding something new to her resume: fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and, hopefully, the organization's Student of the Year.
Ertel is one of eight Northwest Arkansas students taking part in the society's Student of the Year program, a philanthropic leadership development program where students set ambitious fundraising goals to help families affected by blood cancer. Ertel's goal is $30,000, and she hopes to raise that amount by Friday, May 10.
"We're almost 30 percent done," Ertel said. "I have about 12 people on my team that are helping me, some friends of mine in Texas, Georgia and all over the place. It's the first time for Northwest Arkansas to do this, so that's pretty cool. We get to set the standards high."
Ertel was nominated by high school counselor Rachal Hyatt and has been working with LLS representative Amy Germann to get her fundraising efforts underway. Germann described how LLS has grown over the years, saying it started in 2014 and really took off in 2017.
"Last year, we raised more than $2 million with just the students," Germann said. "It's the fastest growing peer-to-peer fundraiser we have in LLS. It's really become one of the critical pillars of how we raise money."
Germann said the program is an opportunity for high school students to get involved with their community.
"They want to be an active part of the community. They want places and businesses they're involved in to give back," Germann said. "They're pushing for that, so we started talking to them and tested this out and it's been very successful."
Germann continued, "In Northwest Arkansas, we're considered an expansion market, because this is the first year we've fully launched a high school program here. We have eight active candidates. That's kind of unheard of in a new market. I'm really excited about the level of activity here."
LLS helps raise money for blood cancer research, Germann said, that takes place in Northwest Arkansas.
"Just recently in November, we granted the Faulk Foundation $300,000 for medical research to be done in our own back yard at the University of Arkansas," Germann said.
That's not all LLS does. Germann said the organization helps families struggling with blood cancer, too.
"We are out there actively seeking not just a cure but better treatment for the families," Germann said. "We'll support them financially if they need it. The money we raise here definitely comes back to this community."
Ertel said she appreciates how LLS helps families, saying $300 funds one week of important one-on-one and group support for families dealing with the challenges of blood cancer. That's especially meaningful to her, Ertel said, because her family used those services when her cousin Jimi was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3.
"He overcame it and he's living a happy and healthy life as an 8-year-old," Ertel said. "When our family spent time in Little Rock, it was really helpful to have those people there to talk to them and help them through that hard situation. It means a lot to me and anybody that's been impacted by blood cancer to support this cause."
Germann said she's grateful to work with motivated students like Ertel.
"I have to say she's phenomenal," Germann said. "She's an ideal candidate for us. She's active in the community. She's got the scholastics. She's just a bright and shiny person."
Ertel said she doesn't only want to reach her $30,000 goal –– she wants to exceed it. The student who raises the most money receives a $2,500 scholarship, but Ertel said that's not why she's working so hard on the campaign.
"Just seeing what my family went through brought a realization to me that there's not enough awareness about these blood cancers," Ertel said. "We need more. We need to get the word out there about the research and support for families."
"The students are competing for a $2,500 scholarship from LLS," she said. "But the truth is they are all so committed to the cause that they simply believe in helping others in the battle against blood and other cancers. The scholarship is just icing on the cake."
Ertel said she's hoping to receive a donation from every state, whether that's $1 or $100. She's still seeking donations from Northern states, Ertel said.
"If anybody has some family or friends up there that could just donate a dollar, I'd really appreciate that," Ertel said.
To donate to Ertel's campaign, go to https://events.lls.org/gat/nwarsoy19/gertel.