When you combine philanthropy with competition, fundraising becomes more fun and more helpful by raising even more funds. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has raised more than $1.56 million in just the past two years with its Man & Woman of the Year campaign.

“In 2018, our Man of the Year locally raised $603,000 and was our National Man of the Year runner-up. His name is John Shumate and he is the founder and CEO of Venture First and has also been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for 10 years now,” said Ashley Voss, senior campaign manager for the Man & Woman of the Year campaign in Kentucky. She is working behind the scenes with Erika Furlong, LLS executive director, and Meagan Newton, campaign assistant, and the entire 28-member leadership team. Ja and Lynn Hillebrand are the 2020 Leadership Team Chairs. Ja is the CEO of Stock Yards Bank & Trust; his wife, Lynn, is a brain cancer survivor.

For 2020, the Man & Woman of the Year candidates are Bill Hayden, George Barrett, Michael Smith, Pete Nochta and Scott Norton; Amy Keller, Donna Reed, Emily Hughes, Leah Joy, Leslie Hurst and Terry Russell.

The “Grand Finale Gala” had been scheduled for May 16 at the Omni Hotel with upwards of 750 attendees, but now the 2020 Man & Woman of the Year Gala is planned as a virtual event Saturday, June 27. Details on the gala and online auction are updated at www.mwoy.org/ky

The Man & Woman of the Year gala also features two honored heroes. The 2020 Boy of the Year is 6-year-old Bentley Fulk and the Girl of the Year is 3-year-old Tenley Ward, both of whom are in treatment for different forms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Another fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society involves teenagers through the Students of the Year campaign. Since 2017, participants in the Students of the Year campaign have raised more than $40 million nationally. The students’ “Grand Finale Gala” had been scheduled for March 20 at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Now it is going to be held virtually on Thursday, June 4. The gala benefits the mission of LLS: to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

“Supporting young adults working for a cause far greater than themselves and being a part of something so impactful in their lives is such an honor for me,” said Alison Conway, senior campaign manager for the program. Throughout the 7-week philanthropic competition, students raise funds for LLS (the team raising the most is named Student(s) of the Year) and they are learning about philanthropic leadership, professional skills, entrepreneurship, marketing and project management.

A local blood cancer survivor or patient known as an “honored Hero” keeps the high-schoolers inspired and motivated to raise funds for a cure. “The Honored Hero delivers inspiration to the candidates and their team members by sharing his or her story and provides a personal connection to the LLS mission of finding a cure for blood caners,” Conway said. “The candidates and their team members rally around the Honored Hero, sharing his or her cancer journey with the community and giving a name and a face to blood cancer patients, survivors and care-givers.”

Gillian Funk is the LLS Honored Hero for 2020. The 5-year-old from Louisville is a two-time survivor of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the scariest forms of pediatric blood cancers. She was diagnosed with AML at age 2 and beat it, only to have it return the next year. She has undergone chemo and in late 2018 she underwent a bone marrow transplant. Gillian is now a healthy little girl and an inspiration for all who support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Here are the seven student campaign team names and candidates for the 2020 Students of the Year.

  • “Blood Buds”: Preeti Tanwani and Safwa Gopang, juniors at DuPont Manual High School.
  • “Blood, Sweat & Tears for Change”: Alyssa Smith, sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy.
  • “Cancer Busters”: Maddie Watkins and Grace Pullen, juniors from Christian Academy Louisville, and Sam Brown, junior from St. Xavier.
  • “Carter’s Cancer-Fighting Crew”: Aidan Carter, freshman at St. Xavier.
  • “Code Red”: Sarah Hassan, sophomore at Walden School, and Sara Alzuhaili, sophomore at Kentucky Country Day School.
  • “Donate for Dixon: Logan Beaver, senior at St. Xavier High School.
  • “Lou Fighting Leu”: Staley Clark and Olivia Mayer, juniors at Sacred Heart Academy.

See all the candidates’ smiling faces and learn more about the Students of the Year campaign at

Posted on 2020-05-12 by By Kathie Stamps | Photos by Tim Furlong, Jr.