Audrey Stanton, 16, of Rose Hill, Kansas, a junior at Rose Hill High School, worked with a friend to raise more than $50,000 last year in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s “Student of the Year” fundraising campaign. When Audrey was in preschool, she became best friends with a little girl named Reese, who shortly afterwards was diagnosed with leukemia. In 2016, Reese died after nine years of living with cancer. “That was the day I knew I needed to help find a cure,” said Audrey. That opportunity came two years later when Reese’s mother nominated Audrey and her friend Isabella for LLS’s Student of the Year fundraiser.
Although the seven-week fundraising campaign didn’t formally begin until January, the girls started laying the groundwork for their participation months before, collecting items for auction, explaining their mission to local businesses and booking venues for fundraising events. They created their own website to share the story of their friendship and display pictures of Audrey, Reese and Isabella over the years. Once the campaign officially kicked off, they sent letters to family and friends asking for donations and hosted several fundraising events, including paint parties, T-shirt sales and a raffle. They surpassed their initial goal by $20,000. After the campaign, Audrey was asked by the Wichita LLS staff to be part of its leadership team for the 2020 Student of the Year campaign. Calling it “the best experience I’ve ever had,” Audrey said: “Although Reese is no longer with us, I feel like during this campaign I grew closer to her.”