Chen, Wong raise money for lymphoma

Alexis Chen (12) and Megan Wong (12) described the last day, the ceremony, as the day that their hard work all worth it.

They had been working on the school’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) Students of the Year campaign team with other Westview students and finally reached the last day, Feb. 25, the closing ceremony.

They sat in a ballroom among 17 other teams, all holding a board down so that no one could see what was on the other side.

And all at once, the teams flipped them over and read: 240,000.

“The number 240,000 was the number that all the campaign teams raised as a total,” Wong said. “It was eye-opening because we realized that we contributed to that number.”

But behind that number was seven weeks of work.

The goal of the campaign was simple: to raise as much money for the society as possible in the given time frame. The team who raised the most would receive $5,000 in scholarship money.

But for the pair, they found more than just money as motivation.

“Honestly, she came up to me initially like ‘let’s do it’ and I was like ‘sure’ because we both wanted business experience so it could help us in the real world,” Wong said. “Also, I know someone personally who was affected by leukemia so I wanted to raise awareness for it because it’s such a horrible thing that a lot of people get.”

But they knew from the start that as teenagers, it would be hard for businesses to want to work with them. From early on, they had limited avenues to fundraise and network.

“It was tiring because it takes a lot of time to contact the businesses because half the time you go in knowing they’re not interested,” Chen said. “We’re two teenagers and they’re [wondering] what we could possibly do for them.”

And so Wong and Chen found any means they could to raise money. They held seven-hour bake sales, went door-to-door to neighbors and contacted restaurants to donate their proceeds.

But whenever they hit any bumps in the road, Chen and Wong had a LLS representative to fall back on for advice.

“We met with the representative or called her once a week just to update her on what we were doing,” Wong said. “She would give us tips saying what we should do or just like update us on the campaign in general.”

Despite the obstacles, whether from the rest of the team or their business ventures, Chen and Wong always found a reason to keep going: a renewed sense of hope in the smallest moments.

They found it in a time where the team had exhausted their fundraising options and had contacted a friend, hoping to use his clothing platform as a place to raffle off items whose proceeds would go to their fundraiser. And to their surprise, he agreed.

Or during their seven-hour bake sales, amidst the dodgy customers and their predictable “I don’t have any money, sorry” lines, the pair would run into those few people who would tell them how much they appreciated their work.

They would run into people who even worked for the same foundation or whose families had suffered from cancer.

They found that hope in those strangers’ stories.

But there would come days where they couldn’t find it anywhere: not in their work or in their prize money. So in those hard, often discouraging times, they found it within each other.

“There [were] so many times where I texted [Wong], talking about how I’m done with this campaign like I just wanted to drop out,” Chen said. “She would always tell me no, that we made a commitment to help people and you can’t back out of it.”

And for Wong, Chen’s contributions made her realize the need for teamwork.

“In the beginning and end [Chen] did a lot,” Wong said. “And I was like thinking that I should step up and near the end I really started to pick up the pace and we really leveled each other out.”

Chen and Wong then felt obligated to finish.

“If we’re going to go down, I wanted to go down trying,” Wong said. “I’m going to go down with a fight.”

And because of that they were here: on the final day of a seven-week journey and $240,000 raised in the whole campaign.

The high spirits in the room settled down after the number was revealed when a family in the room stepped forward.

Chen and Wong finally got to  meet where some of their money was going to. The family spent the rest of the night talking with the teams and expressing their gratitude.

While the amount of money raised was a feat in itself, seeing those affected by it struck another cord with Chen and Wong.

“It was really touching  and eye-opening to hear [about] their experience with LLS and how LLS has helped them grow,” Chen said.

And while they were all aiming for the same scholarship prize money in the beginning, they realized there was more to be gained from this experience.

“In the end, you only get the scholarship if you’re the winner,” Chen said. “But if you don’t win, you don’t gain anything materialistic but you gain that expertise.”

And for Chen, she realized that even if cancer had never affected her, there was no excuse to stay complacent.

“I feel like people in society don’t really help out unless it affects them directly,” Chen said. “I hope more people take action to contribute to things that don’t necessarily affect them.”

For Wong, aside from the experience as a whole, she learned giving didn’t have to mean taking.

“After this, I promised myself I would always have one dollar bills to donate to a homeless person or someone else who was fundraising just because I know how discouraging it is,” Wong said. “And that alone, I think, has already changed my mindset.”