Charlotte Lee’s aunt, a mother of three, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia five years ago.
The New Canaan High School sophomore recalled her dad relaying a doctor’s prognosis that if her aunt didn’t get treatment immediately, she would die in six weeks.
“It was so scary, because her kids were all in high school or younger,” Lee recalled Wednesday, adding: “I know they were really scared about living without their mom.”
Thankfully, Lee’s aunt did undergo treatment and recovered, though the harrowing experience left a mark on the teen.
And now, Lee and two of her classmates and friends—Sophia La Magna and Victoria Vaccaro—are raising funds to help fight leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other blood cancers .
The trio has entered as team “Ramming Cancer” in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2024 Westchester-Fairfield Student Visionaries of the Year campaign (their donation page is here).
A philanthropic leadership development program for high schoolers, the “Student Visionaries” set out to raise the most money for the nonprofit organization, earning the title ”Student Visionary of the Year.” NCHS students have participated in the past.
Lee, La Magna and Vaccaro have already started bringing in money through direct outreach, and have plans to get as many community members as possible involved. They’ve set up donation boxes at New Canaan Chicken and The Toy Chest. They launched a raffle for a Pennyweights gift card. They’ve arranged for a “percentage night” from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Gates, where a portion of the restaurant’s earnings will go to their campaign. They’ve also set up a class (12 p.m. on Feb. 25 at Sama Yoga on Grove Street where donations will be collected and a March 3 “family night” of games and activities at Sports Haus in Norwalk.
The deadline for fundraising is March 15.
Vaccaro said she was very nervous when the campaign kicked off last week because $50,000 “is a lot of money.”
“I was scared if we were going to reach it or not, but so far like just with emails and not even having events yet, I’m really happy with what’s coming in and the support that everyone’s giving,” she said.
La Magna said she’s found that the best approach to bringing in business “is just to walk in and ask.”
“And at first it was really scary just to go and ask ‘Hey, can we have a fundraiser with you guys?’ or just have a pitch set up,” she said. “And we got better at that. We learned what businesses wanted to know—for example, if they wanted a flier, then we would have those. But generally they’re all really positive. They’re all willing to do something.”
Now that the campaign is up and running, Lee said she’s feeling “so much more calm.”
“And I think it’s honestly been a lot of fun, because they’re my two close friends,” she said. “We’re working together to raise money for this great cause and I’ve been enjoying it personally.”
The reaction from the community “has been very positive and welcoming,” Lee added.
“Some businesses have told us we aren’t able to do that, but they’ve always been willing to maybe if we were going to host an event where we could include them, they’ve been willing to do that,” she said. “I’ve always felt like this town is very supportive towards people and their causes. So I’m really happy with all the support we’ve gotten.”