Coligan wins 2017 LLS Woman of the Year
Coligan wins Woman of the Year; Bunce wins Man of the Year
— The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of the Eastern Shore wrapped up its fifth annual Man and Woman of the Year campaign on Saturday, June 10, raising more than $450,000 for the second year in a row.
The final tally for funds raised over the 10-week campaign was $454,917. Each year at the finale gala, held at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in Cambridge, there is a lighting round of fundraising called “Fund the Fight,” which this year brought in a record $56,649 in just 12 minutes. Seventy-seven cents of each dollar raised will fund lifesaving research, which will be more than $350,000 from this year’s campaign alone.
Melissa Coligan of Team Missy’s Mojo was named Woman of the Year. She and her team raised more than $121,000.
“I am so grateful to be here tonight. I’m so grateful for my team. I want to thank God for the fact that I’m here today. I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015, and my sister, Marie, was my bone marrow transplant donor. I would not be here tonight if it wasn’t for her,” said Coligan. “I can’t believe what we’ve been able to do. I really appreciate all your support. It’s been a great ride.”
The title of Man of the Year was awarded to John Bunce of Team Crushin’ Orange, who with his team raised more than $123,000. This is the third win for Team Crushin’ Orange, after 2016 Woman of the Year Emily Murray and 2015 Man of the Year Tom Bunce.
“First, we thank all of our contributors that donated to our campaign. The Murray Foundation, they’ve been above and beyond amazing the last two years,” said Bunce. “I could not be more proud of this team. Our team is absolutely amazing.”
Bunce thanked many of his team’s contributors specifically, and also the Crushin’ Orange campaign manager Michele Bunce for her skill in keeping them organized.
Runners-up were Laura Greenwell and Team Crafting a Cure with $35,378, and Ryan Snow and Team It’s a Cure Thing with $78,000.
Four candidates surpassed the threshold of $50,000, which allows them the opportunity to dedicate fund to a research portfolio of their choosing. Those four were Coligan, Bunce, Snow, and Curt Kersey with Team L ymphomaniacs.
LLS Eastern Shore also was pleased to welcome their first candidates from Wicomico County into this year’s campaign. Captain Willie Dykes and Andrew Tawes of WBOC’s Outdoors Delmarva participated with Team Willie and Team Andrew and the help of the team at Gateway Subaru.
This year’s other candidates were Kasey Deal with Team Orange Blossoms; Kim Leavers with Team Shore 4 A Cure; and Alyssa Miller with Team Curesaders.
The Boy and Girl of the Year honored with the campaign this year were 5-yearold Wyatt Russum and 3-year-old Mia Frank, both of whom have had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. With a birthday approaching soon, Mia was surprised with a birthday cake, and the ballroom of nearly 500 guests sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her.
The Angela M. Bullock Citizenship Award was presented to Leavers. This award is presented annually to the candidate who has shown immense compassion toward the mission of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and directly focused on incorporating that into his or her campaign.
The award is named in memory of Angela Bullock of Bullock’s Deli in Denton who fought acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Mission speaker for the evening was Kim Silpath, mother of Nathan Silpath who, at just 16 years old, has battled cancer three times. She shared the story of Nathan’s battle.
Nathan was diagnosed first at age 9 with osteosarcoma in his right leg. At 11, the cancer had metastacized to his lungs, and he was diagnosed with metastatic bi-lateral lung cancer. After three years off of chemotherapy treatments, routine testing showed spots on Nathan’s lungs which led to a diagnosis of therapy-induced myelodysplastic syndrome (TMES).
She said that TMES is a particularly rare diagnosis in children, and is typically a fatal complication of cancer treatment. For Nathan, TMES was chemo-resistant. To get him healthy enough for the bone marrow transplant he desperately needed, his doctors elected to try an antibody that the FDA had removed from the list of treatments for not having successfully helped enough patients.
“That antibody treatment was Nathan’s golden egg,” Kim said. “It helped us get to transplant without destroying his organs, and with no relapse of leukemia cells, what the transplant team called remission. We’d never heard the word ‘remission’ in the six-and-a-half years that our son has been fighting cancer.”
A months-long, international search was embarked upon to find a bone marrow match for Nathan, but there was none. Thanks to research efforts funded by the LLS, technology exists that allowed for his father to be his donor, despite not being an identical match.
“Treating cancer, any cancer, is not one-size-fits-all,” said Kim. “There needs to be research with new discoveries that will give our loved ones a fighting chance to live the life that they deserve, to live without the harsh side effects of toxicity, and the LLS does just that.”
Even in the midst of his own battle, Nathan was thinking of others who suffered as he was. To help those other cancer-stricken individuals, he founded Nathan’s Story, a 501c3 organization that raises money to assist families with the financial burden of cancer treatment, donate to research efforts, increase awareness, and more.
Kent Island American Legion Post 278 was the presenting sponsor for the second year in a row. The post donated $25,000 initially, and an additional $1,500 during Fund the Fight to support the campaign of candidate Curt Kersey.
“As presenting sponsor of the 2017 Eastern Shore Man and Woman of the Year gala, I congratulate all the candidates for a job well done,” said Post 278 Commander Nikki Randolph. “Your dedication to the LLS is simply outstanding, and know that your hard work saves lives whether you are crowned the winner or not.”
The mission of the LLS is especially close to Randolph, who was caregiver to her 29-year-old son who lost his battle with cancer little more than two months prior.
In a welcome letter printed in the evening’s program book, LLS Executive Director Jonathan Wilson also praised the candidates for enduring the arduous 10week campaign.
“These incredibly selfless people chose to add to their already hectic lives in order to further the mission of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” he wrote. “They recognized that the need was great, the task was large, but the rewards of their mission would endure for years and years to come, in the form of providing hope, better treatments, and better outcomes for patients and families everywhere.”
While the mission of the LLS is focused on eradicating blood cancers, much of the research the foundation funds benefits those afflicted with other varieties of cancer as well. According to a fact sheet in the gala program, 40 percent of new cancer therapies approved by the FDA from 2000-2015 were first approved for blood cancer patients.
Overall, the LLS invested $67.2 million in research in 2016, and more than $1 billion since the inception of the organization.
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The 2017 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of the Eastern Shore Man and Woman of the Year candidates stand on stage during the LLS Gala in Cambridge Saturday, June 10.
John Bunce, of Team Crushin’ Orange, and Melissa Coligan, of Team Missy’s Mojo, won the 2017 Man and Woman of the Year by raising the most money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of the Eastern Shore during the organization’s 10-week campaign.