Coli­gan wins 2017 LLS Woman of the Year

Coli­gan wins Woman of the Year; Bunce wins Man of the Year

Record Observer - - Front Page - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­

— 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.

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