LOS LUNAS — A cancer survivor at the tender age of 4, Octavio Lopez knows what it’s like to go through treatment and live through cancer.
He and his younger sister Elida, plus a fellow Valencia High School student, Arecely Flores-Ramirez, are leaders in a challenge to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The money raised will help pay for research and services for patients of the deadly disease.
Since its inception, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has raised more than $1.2 billion dollars, which is invested in research, such as funding 31 of the 37 new FDA approved drugs and therapies on the market for blood cancers.
Last year, LLS gave almost $480,000 to New Mexicans in co-pay assistance alone, said Paige Gunderson, LLS campaign and Student of the Year program manager.
Octavio’s scare with cancer inspired him to raise money for LLS so other people going through cancer have places to stay and resources to help them out financially during their treatment, the cancer survivor said.
“There’s always a way you can help someone else, and if there’s just one step closer that we can get to finding a cure for cancer, we’re going to take it,” his sister, Elida said. “Even if it just makes that little, tiny dent into what needs to be done, it’s a starting point.”
Every dollar raised counts as one vote and the candidate who raises the most money at the end of the seven week competition will earn the title of Student of the Year and wins a $2,500 scholarship.
The LLS’s Students of the Year is a philanthropic youth leadership development program through which selected high school students lead a team in a fundraising competition to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The other top students will receive citizen awards of $500 scholarships.
“I like to help other people because I feel that it is our job,” said Flores-Ramirez. “Even though we don’t know how other people are suffering, even though we haven’t experienced their suffering, it’s our job as fellow human beings to help them and try in any way we can to alleviate their pain.”
Only 15 students in New Mexico were chosen as team leaders and students must be nominated for the LLS challenge.
Karin Trujillo, former Los Lunas Schools librarian and Relay for Life organizer, nominated the three VHS students.
“They’re just so kind and so giving and so willing to help in any way they can,” Trujillo said.
“All of us did Relay for Life with her,” Elida said. “She asked us if we were up for the challenge and of course we all said yes.
The New Mexico chapter has 11 teams and more than 70 team members and growing. It is the students’ way to give back to their communities and the larger community in the nation.
“They get it; they get community service and they are committed,” Trujillo said. “All three of these kids are going places.”
One of the local fundraisers the students recently held was selling breakfast burritos outside of Walmart this past weekend. The VHS band ensemble performed during the event.
The students said they are organizing more events, which they plan to publicize in the News-Bulletin’s Noticias.
The campaign runs from now until March 9, when a final gala event is scheduled at the YDI Wool Warehouse, 516 First St., NW, in Albuquerque. There will be a silent auction, and anyone who would like to donate items for the auction can do so the day of the event. They hope to raise $15,000 to $20,000.
“It’s really fun,” said Elida. “You get to meet new people; you get to find all these connections and it makes you feel great inside.”
Donations can also be made under each students’ name directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. For Arecely Flores Ramirez Google: events.lls.org/nm/nmsoy19/afloresram, for Octavio Lopez events.lls.org/nm/nmsoy19/olopez and Elida Lopez events.lls.org/nm/nmsoy19/elopez.
The New Mexico Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society website is lls.org/new-mexico.