Sara F. ’17 and Taylor T. ’17 were recently named 2012 Teens of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Pittsburgh (LLS) for their fundraising efforts on behalf of blood cancer research and patient financial aid. Competing against other area teens for the title, the girls accumulated a grand total of $2083.75 during a ten-week campaign that began in March and culminated on Friday, May 18, at the Man, Woman, and Teen Grand Finale at the Bobby Rahal Automotive Group in Wexford, PA.
“The most rewarding thing was just doing it,” says Sara. “We signed up because we thought it was right.” Affirms Taylor, “It helped me realize that I can’t always be… doing my own thing, that I sometimes have to stand up and reach out for other people who really need help.”
The girls mobilized a team of classmates eager to join their effort. During twice-weekly planning meetings, they crafted a strategy that included selling cookies, cookbooks, raffle tickets, soliciting online donations and, with assistance from Director of Athletics Kevin Miller, organized a Red Out. “It started off as Own Clothes Day, where people paid three dollars to wear jeans,” explains Sara. “We sold t-shirts for $10 and bracelets for $1. After that, we had a (boys and girls) lacrosse game, and…a huge bake sale. By the end of that day alone, we made $822.”
“To me, this proved their excitement about the campaign was contagious,” notes Lower School City and Middle School dance teacher Kristin McClintock LeBeau, who provided guidance and served as liaison to LLS, and whose personal involvement with LLS inspired the students’ participation. “It proved they were strong leaders by exhibiting the ability to get others behind their cause.”
Five years ago, LeBeau lost her 26-year-old brother Todd to leukemia. “As soon as this started, (my family) tried to find ways to get involved,” she says. “I volunteered to get involved with the (society’s) Man, Woman, and Teen of the Year campaign about two years ago because of my family's ongoing involvement in the organization. As a faculty member at WT, I had the ability to inform students about the campaign and recruit students to get involved.”
Sara, too, has a personal connection to the cause: her grandfather, internationally renowned cancer researcher Dr. John E. Ultmann, died of complications from lymphoma when she was three, and his widow—Sara’s grandmother—was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma. “To me it was a no-brainer that I should (participate),” declares Sara.
“Despite heavy course loads and extracurricular activities, (Sara and Taylor) made the campaign a priority,” remarks LeBeau.
Taylor and Sara’s achievement marks the second straight year that WT students claimed the title: Andrea Ortiz ’11, Isabella Ortiz ’12, and Benjamin Chait ‘12 were crowned 2011 Teens of the Year.
“It’s just great that we were able to…experience the rewards of serving the community,” says Taylor. Adds Sara, “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I’ll never forget it.”
“This opportunity…proved to be both a fantastic leadership opportunity for students (and) an opportunity for them to make a difference in the community and in the lives of others--a perfect extension of the WT motto ‘Think also of the comfort and rights of others,’” reflects LeBeau. “The efforts of the students over the last two years have been very touching (and)…I love to see their leadership efforts benefit such a worthy cause that is personally close to my heart.”