Erin Pearson and Alexandra Williamson, both juniors at Archmere Academy, raised more than $91,000 in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual student-led fundraiser for blood cancer research. As the team who raised the most money, the pair were awarded the title of 2019 Delaware Students of Year.
This was the largest amount ever raised by a team or individual in the LLS Delaware chapter.
“I was so excited when we heard our names called,” said Erin Pearson. “Our original goal was $35,000. We honestly did not expect to hit such a high number, but we continued working hard and were excited to set new goals each time we reached one. Then leading into the Grande Finale week, we were really inspired by what the other students were doing.”
The LLS Student of the Year Campaign is a leadership development and philanthropy program in which high school students participate in a fundraising competition to benefit LLS and the mission to cure blood cancers.
Alexandra participated in the campaign to honor her grandfather, who fought a courageous battle with blood cancer and was one of the nation’s first to receive a bone marrow transplant. Erin ran in honor of her grandmother, Donna Pearson, who lost her battle to acute myelogeneous leukemia in 2001. They named their fundraising team Blood is Thicker Than Water.
Over a seven-week period, Pearson and Williamson held a number of fundraisers, reaching out to friends, family and many throughout the Archmere network. They made and sold custom Smathers & Branson keychains featuring the Archmere logo, held a yoga class and an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in the Archmere patio (separate events), and conducted an online raffle for a custom Archmere painting by Archmere art teacher Mr. Newitt.
“We also sold raffle tickets for gift cards to El Diablo and The Pink Turtle, fourth-row tickets to the 76ers and even held a super fun Matchomatic fundraiser (a fun questionnaire-based student matching game) at school around Valentines Day,” said Williamson.
Eagles’ Doug Pederson makes special appearance for Archmere team
Their biggest initiative, raising over $30,000 for LLS, featured special guest Doug Pederson, the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
For this event, the team called upon one of their fellow team members (they had 9 team members in all), Pearson’s aunt Sharon Tsao, who has a friendship with the Super Bowl Champion coach. Tsao offered to coordinate what she knew would be a very popular event for her niece.
Tsao’s idea was to host a fundraiser dinner party for 130 with the chance to meet Pederson. A realtor friend of Tsao’s in Moorestown, New Jersey, lined up a home that was on the market for the venue. The Archmere students worked with Tsao to line up Chef Nunzio Patruno — with restaurants on the Philadelphia Main Line and the Society Hill section of Philadelphia — as the chef for the evening. He and members of his cooking team worked in the kitchen to prepare a memorable dinner for guests. The food, drinks, tables, linens, flowers — all were donated. The seated dinner also included an auction and live music.
“Doug and Jeannie were so generous to support our efforts. And everyone had a great time chatting, dancing, eating, and even getting signed books from them. It was really an unforgettable experience,” said Pearson.
Other students also raise thousands for LLS Delaware Chapter
The Grande Finale event on March 16th at Deerfield Country Club highlighted ten local candidate teams. Callie Skurla of team Callie’s Cancer Kickers, a sophomore at Delaware Military Academy in Wilmington, was named runner-up, raising more than $75,000.
Umar Aulia and Joe Zakielarz of team We Severely Dislike Cancer and both sophomores at Tower Hill School and Nadia Baker of team CUREsaders and a junior at Padua Academy were also recognized for raising more than $50,000 in the seven-week competition.
Citizenship awards were presented to Alexis McKeown of Padua Academy, Callie Skurla of Delaware Military Academy, Erin Pearson and Alexandra Williamson of Archmere Academy and Sean Brady and Katrina Winfield of Wilmington Friends School.
Collectively, the ten candidate teams raised $397,618. Funds raised from the Student of the Year campaign help support critical research and education and patient services for blood cancer patients.
Pearson and Williamson are trying to raise an additional $9,000 by June 30th (for a total of $100K) to earn a second research portfolio in honor of each their grandparents. ($50,000 must be raised by each LLS Student of the Year participant to earn one research portfolio.) Their team fundraising page can be found here.