Combating Cancer One Donation at a Time


Dianne Barahona Bonilla, Reporter

Every year, about 20,000 people die from leukemia, while another 450,000 live with or are afflicted by it. Leukemia affects the body’s blood-forming cells in the bone marrow as well as the lymphatic system, making it the sixth most lethal cancer. As a result, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was founded to combat the deadly disease, which takes many forms and has an unpredictable spreading rate.  

It all began with the tragic death of Robert Roesler de Villiers, a young man who died of leukemia after a bitter fight. In honor of his memory, his parents, Rudolph and Antoinette de Villiers, established the Robert Roesler de Villiers Foundation — which would later become the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society — to find a treatment for leukemia. They were short on volunteers, finances, and resources, but not on cause. After gathering enough volunteers, they established chapters in New York City and Brooklyn. Since then, they’ve committed about $1.3 billion to cancer research and patient relief. Not only that, they’ve launched a program called Student of the Year, in which high school students campaign to raise funds for the LLS in order to engage people of all ages in skill-building projects. 

In Virginia, the Student of the Year campaign lasts seven weeks. It provides students with the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial and marketing skills. The title “Student of the Year” is given to the student or students that raise the most money for the initiative. The title comes with a total scholarship of $1,500 towards the college of the winning team’s choice. Additionally, the student who exhibits the most integrity throughout the campaign is granted the Citizenship Award. The fundraising event is topped off with a Finale Gala scheduled on March 19th, 2022 to commemorate the efforts of the participants. 

Shruti Kasireddy, a sophomore at Briar Woods, had the opportunity to participate in this year’s campaign. As a committed fundraiser, she contacted everyone she knew and encouraged them to donate after presenting her campaign. As she says, “Cancer, whatever the sort, is a vile disease” by which her family has been “fortunate enough to avoid.” However, they have suffered through other diseases related to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s line of work. The “possibility that the [financed research] could aid those [in need] motivated [her] to participate in the SOY campaign.” Not only has she learned more about the organization and blood cancer itself, but skills such as leadership, communication, networking, and public speaking. Fundraising with her co-candidate, Ridhi Donepudi, the pair raised a total of $7,778.

Cancer affects millions of people worldwide. Breast cancer, lung cancer, leukemia and lymphoma, to name a few, have dramatically changed lives in unimaginable ways. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is one of many organizations fighting to eradicate one of the world’s most heinous diseases. The Student of the Year program is a fantastic way to become more active in your community and work towards a worthwhile cause. 

Although registration for the 2022 campaign is closed, donations are always welcome at