Andover Group Raises Money For Blood Cancer in “Students of the Year” Program

After overcoming leukemia, Ana Nikolaeva ’20 was inspired to start the “Big Blue for a Cure” fundraising team with Erica Nam ’19 and Reimi Kusaka ’21. The team is a part of the nation-wide “Students of the Year” program run by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (L.L.S.), which selects high schoolers from across the country to participate in a capital campaign.

By raising money, the trio aims to spread awareness and raise money for L.L.S. at Andover. According to Nam, they hope to raise 10,000 dollars or more.

“Our goal for this fundraiser is to bring attention to blood cancers like Leukemia, which is the most common form of cancer in children and teens…Many people of all ages are affected by this terrible disease. My grandfather was one of many who lost their lives to cancer, and ever since his death, I have been inspired to raise awareness on this topic,” said Kusaka.

Nikolaeva hopes that the money raised by her team can not only go to funding cancer research, but also to patients who are struggling to pay their hospital bills.

“Through being ill, I also became friends with a lot of the people in the hospital who are ill, and while I was fortunate enough to have good insurance provided by my boarding school…a lot of people weren’t so lucky…I know that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society do a lot of work in order to help people who are financially struggling, not only funding researchers,” said Nikolaeva.

Nam first heard about the Students of the Year program through an announcement posted by Karleigh Antista, Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement, on PAnet. She then reached out to Nikolaeva, and after hearing that Kusaka was interested in the field of cancer research, Nam contacted her as well.

Nam said, “I felt really motivated because I thought it was such a good way for me to grow, and it was such a great opportunity for me that I should seize…I’m graduating this year, so I wanted to make the most of an opportunity to do this.”

Nam, Nikolaeva, and Kusaka have their own individual pages on the Students of the Year Boston website, according to Kusaka. The “Big Blue for a Cure” team has also been using social media and fundraisers during lunch to help increase awareness about the cause.

“We just started last week, and the deadline [for fundraising] is March 1. Right now we are trying to spread the word and get people’s attention, and if they can, we would love if anyone would donate…Yesterday, we just put a bunch of candy on a table and it attracted a lot of people, so we got money from that. Starting next week, we are actually going to sell some baked goods and stuff like that to try to get more money,” said Kusaka.

Kennedy Everson ’21 and Mac Katkavich ’21 were among those who donated to the fundraiser. For Everson, finding a cure for cancer was something very important to her. She also helped promote the campaign by posting the link to the Students of the Year webpage on her Instagram account.

“I donated to Reimi’s fundraiser because I knew how important it was for cancer research. I didn’t hesitate once I saw the donation button, and I also encouraged a lot of my friends to donate by sharing her link on social media because for cancer research, money is one of the most important things.” said Everson.

Katkavich said, “I donated to Reimi simply because [she] was the spokesperson for the cause. She is such an awesome person, so I jumped at the chance to support her.”