LLS Week recap
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It’s no secret that Whitman is incredibly competitive; from academics, to extracurriculars, students strive to overachieve—and charity work is no exception.
Whitman competes annually in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) High School Challenge, where schools nationwide race to raise the most money for the organization, which funds research and support for blood cancer patients.
Whitman won the challenge the last five years and raised over $300,000 dollars for the organization by turning February into “LLS Month,” characterized by fundraising events that have quickly become staples in the Whitman community.
This year, the SGA has taken a step back from LLS-centric fundraising and created four separate charity weeks spread out over the course of four months: Mental Health Week in February, LLS Week in March, Environmental Week in April and Homelessness Week in May.
“The main goal of changing the program from LLS Month to charity weeks was to encompass more causes that different students could connect to,” charity weeks head Rachel Hazan said. “We got a lot of feedback from students that, though LLS is a great organization, they wanted to help other organizations and spread the love.”
Whitman’s biggest fundraiser of the year, bRAVE, underwent a major transformation to change the event’s drug and drinking culture. The dance marathon took place in the Whitman gym March 18 and this year was renamed “Vike-A-Thon.” The more than 700 attendees were encouraged to wear white and given opportunities to write cards for cancer patients in the hospital. White was chosen to make a symbolic statement of being a light in the darkness of cancer with black lights, Vike-A-Thon coordinator Sophia Tompkins said.
“The idea is that it’s going away from a rave, and more towards a fundraising dance,” she said. “Not necessarily a homecoming type, which is not our intention at all, but more message-focused, where you’re dancing for those who can’t and are really trying to support the patients that undergo treatment for leukemia or lymphoma.”
Administration upheld a strict policy against drugs and alcohol at the event, making it clear to students that a single citation would result in the events complete cancellation. This messaging seems to have proven effective; no one was cited this year, compared to last year’s 14 citations. The event raised a total of $20,000.
Knowing that there’s other ways of helping other than raising money, showing the students that you don’t have to give money to help, was a good idea.— Sophomore Natalia Beltran
The leadership committee planned a blood drive March 14 for Inova Hospital that was canceled due to a snow day; the rescheduled date is yet to be determined. Though Whitman hosts a blood drive annually and the event wasn’t aligned with LLS specifically, the goal was to show students other ways of contributing to the cause besides raising money, Hazan said.
Sophomore Natalia Beltran said the more active opportunities for charity work were a welcome change from contributing money.
“Knowing that there’s other ways of helping other than raising money, showing the students that you don’t have to give money to help, was a good idea,” Beltran said. “My sister is never usually interested in these things, but she actually really wanted to do the blood drive because she thought it would help. It opens students’ minds.”
Spirit Week, Singing Grams and “Five Dolla’ Holla’”
People always look forward to LLS events, even if we’re not competing. We do it because we want to, we get fun out of it, and it’s for a good cause.— Sophomore Yiyang Zhang
In addition to dances and blood drives, LLS Week was the only of the four charity weeks that served as a spirit week, with students urged to dress differently every day. Monday was pajama day, Tuesday was jersey day, Wednesday was a red-out, Thursday was U.S.A. day and Friday was a green-out, for St. Patrick’s Day.
“Of all the organizations, it fit best into LLS Week because a lot of what goes into our fundraising efforts is rallying together as a student body against cancer,” Hazan said.
SGA also collected monetary donations throughout the week through Singing Grams, which sold for $5 all week and were performed March 22, as well as the Five Dolla’ Holla’, where students could win donuts for their second period class if everyone brought $5 to donate to LLS.
Fundraising this year was stunted by both shortening the LLS period to a week, and a snow day, meaning Whitman isn’t expecting to do as well in the LLS Challenge, SGA sponsor Laurie Safran said. But maintaining a winning streak isn’t the main motivator anyway, students said.
“I don’t think we do it because we’re in a competition with other schools or we just want to win. People always look forward to LLS events, even if we’re not competing,” sophomore Yiyang Zhang said. “We do it because we want to, we get fun out of it, and it’s for a good cause.”
Online donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are still open: http://events.lls.org/pages/nca/WaltWhitmanHighSchool-2017
Rachel Hazan is an online photo assistant for The Black & White.