Will Pettit ’19 competes in LLS Student of the Year campaign

Stowe Milhous

Junior Will Pettit has campaigned for his chance to win Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Student of the Year competition. Pettit has been fundraising to win this campaign competition, which concluded on Saturday, March 3.

Although Pettit did not win this year’s competition, the sixteen Philadelphia-area candidates for Student of the Year raised a total of $200,006 for leukemia and lymphoma research, according to the Facebook post announcing the competition’s results. This year’s winner was Episcopal Academy student Carter Strid.

Students are nominated to take part in the contest, and then there is a seven week competition in which these students look to fundraise the most money out of all the students taking part. The student that collects the most money wins, and they have to come up with different ways to raise the greatest amount of money they can.

“During the seven weeks, they have a series of different things they do,” Emily Fiore, Campaign Manager for Special Events at the LLS said. “They send out letters, they send out emails, they host different events, and then, essentially, every dollar counts as a vote. Then, the student that raises the most money or has the most votes at the end of the seven weeks is named Student of the Year.”

The winner receives a $2500 scholarship to whichever college will attending. Even though there is an enticing prize, Pettit entered the contest for a different reason.

“It’s something I talked about with my parents and we all wanted to do it because it’s such a great cause and it’s really affected my family personally,” Pettit said.

When Pettit was in seventh grade, his mother had a bone marrow transplant due to her diagnosis of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Today she is healthy.

“So it’s just a nice thing to do to give back to those who are in need because we are so lucky to have my mom come out perfectly healthy,” Pettit said.

These competitions take place all throughout the country. Pettit is competing in the local Philadelphia chapter, which was one of the original chapters when this contest first came into existence, for his campaign.

“We [the LLS] are the largest voluntary health network that’s dedicated to blood cancer research. LLS is actually a national organization,” Fiore said. “So there are fifty chapters throughout the United States, and we are a huge organization. During the 50 plus years that we’ve been in assistance, we’ve invested more than one billion dollars into blood cancer research.”

The cool thing about this competition is that students get to take part in something completely different than they would regularly experience in their daily high school lives. These students have to figure out ways to fundraise money by getting support from a wide range of people.

“It’s high school students doing adult things,” Fiore said. “So, working with companies to bring on sponsors and really promoting themselves and their events throughout the seven weeks has really proven to be successful for the winning candidates.”

Pettit raised funds for his campaign in multiple ways, trying to get his name out there for people to support him.

“We had the three-on-three basketball tournament and we have just been reaching out to people trying to get them to donate,” Pettit said. “Basically the basketball campaign was trying to get the word out because that definitely helps to raise the donations. We put a lot of effort into that so it just helped spread the word.”

These types of fundraisers are not easy to pull off. There is a lot of time and energy spent organizing and carrying out these events. Pettit’s three-on-three basketball tournament, “Hoops for the Cure,” was a big deal.

“It was definitely hard to get people to sign up for the basketball tournament,” Pettit said. “We decided to do the basketball tournament, and the person who runs the contest said they’ve never had someone do it successfully, so that was a couple days before we actually decided to launch our emails. So, getting people to sign up was definitely the most difficult part.”

Because it was so hard organize this event and get people to sign up, Will Pettit called on some of his friends for help in setting this fundraiser up, including juniors Evan Lotz, Billy Carlini, and Connor Leyden. These students helped reach out to a lot of different Malvern students so the tournament could be successful.

“I co-ran it with Pettit,” Lotz said. “It was really a pretty solid team effort between me and Billy Carlini to help co-run it. We had zero teams two weeks before the actual day of the tournament. We ended up having twelve teams total which wasn’t terrible because our goal was sixteen.”

The tournament ended up being a great success for Will Pettit’s fundraising campaign, raising about $1800 just from the fees of teams entering the tournament.

Along with the tournament, Pettit reached out to many of people to try and get them to donate to his campaign. Seventy donors are listed on his fundraising page on the LLS website. According to Pettit, by February 15, he had already raised around $20,000.