NORTH COLLINS, N.Y. (WIVB) - A group of student in WNY are raising money for a great cause, while learning important life lessons. They're vying to become the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Student of the Year.
This is the second year of the LLS Student of the Year program. For several months, students are trained on how to do philanthropy work, and are given leadership tips. Then, during a seven-week period, they try to raise as much money as possible for LLS. At the end of the seven weeks, the student who raises the most is named the LLS Student of the Year.
Throughout the week, Henry Jarzynski and Madison Gaglione spend a lot of time inside their school's technology room. The North Collins High School juniors go there during study halls and lunch periods to make wooden buffalos. They're selling those buffalos, as just one of their many LLS fundraisers.
"I know how directly LLS helps people because my mom works at Roswell, in the leukemia clinic," Gaglione said.
For months this past fall and winter, LLS helped train the two on philanthropy and how to be community leaders. The duo then got their school and town involved.
"North Collins is so small, we're kind of like a family," Jarzynski said.
"You go to one meeting with these students and you see 30-plus people in a room, solely to support two students," Michael Crisona said, the Western-Central NY LLS executive director. "You realize you're in the midst of something special... and you realize you're around a group that can do incredible things."
Jarzynski and Gaglione started their seven-week fundraising in February, and the North Collins community supported them extensively. They held a bake sale, a Zumba class fundraiser, a dinner and basket raffle, and a sauce drive.
"We made homemade sauce, canned it, and sold it with a pound of pasta," Gaglione said.
And dozens of people from across WNY bought their wooden buffalos, for a minimum donation of $50. All the plywood was donated from a business in Pennsylvania, and the two cut them out in their school's tech room.
"They've actually worked outside on garbage cans and (with) extension cords, when they couldn't work in here, and make noise, because kids were doing other projects," Kevin Manchester said, the technology teacher at the school.
And a Buffalo public school offered to help too.
"They get sent to Buffalo Math Science and Technology School, it's a public school that our Home and Careers teacher's husband works at," Gaglione said. "They sand, paint and polyurethane them."
Then, the buffalos come back to North Collins High School, where Henry and Madison put different logos on them, inside the school's Maker's Space.
"We can customize it any way you want," Jarzynski said.
During this entire fundraising period, the two have learned how to be leaders, and have taken away other life lessons that will carry them through adulthood. They've also raised thousands of dollars for people fighting blood cancers in our area.
"Just last year, in the Buffalo area, we distributed more than $1.5 million to patients, for co-pay assistance," Crisona said. "We have $500,000 right now in research, actively taking place at Roswell. So, we really hit blood cancers from every angle... and really place a heavy focus on supporting local patients right here in Buffalo."
There are 20 students in the program this year. Their fundraising ends Wednesday. Last year 11 students raised $80,000. This year, the 20 students are expected to more than double that number.
The student who raises the most will be named the LLS Student of the Year.