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Inspired by her uncle’s drive to help others, a Cumberland Valley High School senior is looking to raise $50,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Madison Nicole Whitcomb is the oldest of Scott and Robin Whitcomb’s three children. Throughout high school, she embraced community work and volunteering. Like her uncle, Lennie Whitcomb, she describes herself as a social and confident person who believes she has a responsibility to use that outgoing personality to help others.

She’s involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and has spent a lot of time coaching youth field hockey players, in addition to participating in a variety of clubs at school ranging from Mini-Thon to working with special education students to teaching Spanish to elementary school students.

She’s a member of the National Honor Society and has volunteered at Project SHARE and Caitlin’s Smiles.

Though she said she has enjoyed all of her volunteer work, her Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Campaign, which continues through March 9, is more personal.

Q. Tell us a little about your uncle, Lennie Whitcomb.

A. Lennie held a bachelor of science in education from Shippensburg University, and master of science in education, training and development from Pennsylvania State University. Lennie was the corporate learning director for Gannett Fleming Engineers, Planners and Architects for over nine years. Uncle Lennie always spoke highly of his co-workers and loved working at Gannett Fleming.

About five days after he passed, I went into his work to talk to his co-workers about the Student Series Campaign. As soon as I walked into the building, I was greeted with warm smiles and kind words. My father, who is Lennie’s older brother, and I entered the conference room and I was amazed to see how many people showed up to listen in on my presentation. We ran out of seats so some had to stand.

He was a proud member of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Harrisburg for 31 years. He believed in the church’s affirmation that God was calling us into the world together to seek a common good.

Lennie loved sports and the arts equally. He was a fierce Eagles fan, played the piano, listened to classical jazz, ran the New York City Marathon and was a rugby player. He served on various community boards through the years, most recently the Dixon University Center. Lennie was diagnosed with lymphoma roughly three years ago and passed away on Dec. 30, 2017.

Q. How has he inspired your participation in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Student of the Year program?

A. Uncle Lennie had an exceptional ability to rise above incredibly tough situations. I say it time and time again, but I mean it every time I say it. The cancer damaged Lennie’s physical health, but the cancer failed to take his positive personality. Lennie was the light in dark times. He always put others before himself. I was nominated by last year’s Student of the Year, Annabel Krebs, in August. When I told Lennie about the campaign, it was a very emotional moment. His immediate response was, “Madison, what can I do to help you?” That was Lennie — selfless and driven by wanting to help others. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to rally the community to help fund a research grant. This campaign is not about me. Lennie’s drive to help others even when he was incredibly ill is what motivates me to get that research grant and write it under his name.

Q. What does the society do, and how does the Student of the Year program fit in with their mission?

A. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s mission is to find cures for blood cancer and to make treatments accessible to patients. However, the research done on blood cancer is not restricted to fighting only blood cancer. In fact, there are 16 FDA-approved drugs discovered from blood cancer research that are commonly used for other cancers such as brain, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, breast, lung, kidney, liver and lung cancers. The money that the Student Series raises goes toward that research. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society utilizes research at the molecular level. Cancer cells are more accessible from blood than from mass tumors. Before a drug or treatment is passed by the FDA, it’s considered a clinical trial. These clinical trials are funded by research grants, and $50,000 is the required amount to fund a grant. If a candidate raises the $50,000, then they can name the grant.

Q. What are some of your fundraising activities and goals?

A. My goal is to raise the $50,000, the required amount to fund a research grant and write it under my Uncle Lennie’s name. The campaign runs from Jan. 21 to March 9.

Another goal is for the community to rally behind this campaign so everyone knows that they are capable of making a difference. As Lennie’s health got worse toward the end, I started to feel helpless. I know that he would tell me to take my grief and use it to motivate me to reach my goal. This campaign is healing for me because it gives me an opportunity to make a difference.

Some of my fundraising activities include:

T- Shirt Sales: Contact Rene Krebs at 717-503-0116 or by email at renedkrebs@ymail.com to order or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities.

Laptop Chance: Donors can get tickets for a chance to win a brand new $800 value laptop.

Sam’s Club Canning Fundraiser: Feb. 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.

Lennie’s Love & Legacy at Carlisle Country Club: Feb. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event includes a sit down dinner, professional table side magic, pianist and silent auction. Silent auction items will be listed on the website. Tickets are $100.

LLS Jazz Brunch: Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Café Fresco Center City, 215 N. Second St., Harrisburg. Call to make a reservation before the event at 717-236-2599.

Bingo Night at Jigsy’s Pizza: March 4 from 1 to 4 p.m., 225 North Enola Road, Enola.

Q. How can people make contributions to your campaign?

A. My biggest event is the Lennie’s Love & Legacy at the Carlisle Country Club on Feb. 17. We are searching for silent auction items, corporate sponsors for tables and for caring individuals to go on my website to get tickets to celebrate the Valentine’s Day themed event.

Donations may also be made on the campaign website at http://events.lls.org/cpa/CPASoY18/mwhitcomb. When you use the website to donate, please share a memory of Lennie Whitcomb or anyone you know that has fought or is fighting cancer. Let’s let their legacies live on.

In order for a check to count toward the campaign, donors must make checks or money orders payable directly to “The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.” Then, they must write “Madison Whitcomb – SOY2018” in the memo line and mail to: 404 Sorbie Lane, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.

Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.

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