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The Future is Cancer Free: Are you the next Man or Woman of the Year?

A couple weeks ago, a former colleague and dear friend reached out to me about an initiative she leads at her new job. After talking about it more, I could feel my own excitement growing and my own heart bouncing with that little jolt of inspiration you get when you feel passion aligning with meaningful mission.

I am so excited to share this opportunity with The Smile Project community this week and introduce y’all to my dear friend Chelsea Beecher, Campaign Director of Man & Woman of the Year at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in New York City.

Liz: Tell me about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Chelsea: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is at the forefront of the fight to cure cancer. Since 1949, we’ve invested nearly $1.3 billion in groundbreaking research, and are the largest nonprofit dedicated to creating a world without blood cancers. We believe that “beating cancer is in our blood” because cancer cells in the blood are more accessible than those in solid tumors, making them easier to study. We’ve funded 45 of 51 FDA approved blood cancer therapies since 2017 and have funded more than 60% of the blood cancer therapies being used to treat other cancers. It’s extraordinary that blood cancer research leads to treatment advances for other cancers and serious diseases like multiple sclerosis. In addition to funding research, LLS also provides educational, financial, and emotional support to patients and their families, and advocates for state and federal policies that benefit patients.

Grand Total of the 2019 NYC Man & Woman of the Year Candidate Class

Pictured: Grand Total of the 2019 NYC Man & Woman of the Year Candidate Class

Liz: What is the Man & Woman of the Year campaign?

Chelsea: The Man & Woman of the Year campaign is a 10 week blind philanthropic competition in communities across the United States during which dynamic, passionate individuals rally a team of people, anywhere in the world, to compete to earn LLS’s Man and Woman of the Year titles. Candidates and their teams raise funds for LLS in honor or in memory of loved ones, or for local children who are blood cancer survivors, our Honored Heroes. A volunteer mentorship program, fundraising workshop, and dedicated LLS staff are available to guide candidates and their teams along their fundraising journeys. Nominations for candidates are currently open for our spring campaign that kicks off on March 25, 2020. After signing on, we help candidates every step of the way, from building their team to planning their fundraising strategy.

To learn more, or to nominate a candidate (or yourself!) who lives or works in NYC, feel free to reach out to me: or 212-376-6756

or you can use the link to nominate candidates local to NYC or elsewhere.

Pictured: 2019 NYC Woman of the Year, Dani Frisch Harkin

Liz: How many years has this event existed?

Chelsea: This campaign has existed in the New York City chapter since 2011.

Liz: Is there a particular moment or memory from this campaign that really sticks with you?

Chelsea: The 2019 Man of the Year, Sahm Duck Cho named his team “Ducks Fly Together,” and when his name was called as the winner at the Grand Finale Gala, all of his guests chanted the Mighty Ducks ‘quack’ as he took the stage. I’ll never forget it!

Pictured: 2019 NYC Man & Woman of the Year Candidate Class celebrating the Man of the Year, Sahm D. Cho, and the Woman of the Year, Dani Frisch Harkin

Past candidates say that the experience is fun, rewarding, and even life-changing. Many past candidates and their team members decide to stay involved after their campaign ends by joining our Executive Leadership Team, a group of passionate individuals on a mission to cure cancer who work with us to nominate the next great group of candidates during the summer and fall.

Liz: How can readers participate?

Chelsea: We are looking for 15-20 motivated individuals who want to rally their network around them to raise funds to beat cancer. While the Man & Woman of the Year campaign is a competition, we all win when cancer loses.

Liz: How can I nominate someone and what are the criteria to being nominated?

Chelsea: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of candidate. They come from all backgrounds and walks of life! They tend to be good hearted people who are well-connected or have diverse social circles. Candidate qualities may be: ambitious, social, professional, philanthropic minded, competitive, connected to the mission, and a community leader or an executive with a large client-base.

Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?

Chelsea: I never met my grandma Jialdini (pictured right) because she died when my mom was only 13 years old from uterine cancer. This campaign is special to me because all across the country individuals are bringing their friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, and even strangers together as a united force for doing their absolute best to raise funds to find cures. This past spring, in only 10 weeks, candidates across the country cumulatively raised an extraordinary 52 million dollars. When we come together, we can advance treatments and provide hope to patients and their families so that everyone has more time with their loved ones.

Liz: Where can people follow along?

Chelsea: For more info on Man & Woman of the Year, click here. To stay up-to-date on all of our NYC programs, events, and local mission information, make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @LLSNYC.

Liz: Anything else you'd like to add?

Chelsea: Are you the next Man or Woman of the Year? Watch this video:

Liz: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice to leave us with?

Chelsea: A quote that I always go back to when I’m hesitant about pursuing a new endeavor is:

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

– Hugh Laurie

So, if you’re thinking about reaching out to hear more, please do. You never know, the next dollar to push forward a new treatment could be yours.

With the mission in mind, thank you for featuring the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year campaign on The Smile Project and inspiring a culture of giving and kindness in the world.

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