When you’re jockeying for a title like Man and Woman of the Year, there’s no telling who might come to the table. This year’s candidates for the honor are a motley crew—including a New York artist, a Massey Cancer Center nurse, a VCU oncologist, two restaurateurs, a realtor, a marketing consultant, and a jeweler. This seemingly different lot were all inspired to run for a similar reason.
Last year more than 1,220 people in Virginia died from blood cancers. The Man and Woman of the Year contest is a way for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to raise $300,000 towards the mission of curing blood cancers.
“Every dollar counts as one vote, and the titles are awarded to the man and woman with the most votes,” explains Nick Faraone, executive director of the Virginia chapter at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Designed as a 10-week campaign that kicked off in February and ends in May, The Man and Woman of the Year event is a way to show that everyone wins when cancer loses.
“All of the candidates for the Man and Woman of the Year are goal-oriented and compassionate,” says Faraone. “Their relentless efforts help us work toward a world without blood cancer.”
Every spring, candidates, survivors, sponsors, campaign teams, friends, family, and other supporters gather for the Grand Finale Gala for the announcement of the Man and Woman of the Year. The candidate who raises the most money for blood cancer research during the challenge takes home the title as part of a national fundraising effort. The top local fundraisers in the country win national titles. To date, local chapters have helped LLS invest almost $1 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies that are saving lives.
The candidates in RVA come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Two popular restaurant owners, for example, are part of this year’s push to beat previous fundraising efforts. Jessica Bufford, owner of Toast and Estilo, and Bob Cox, of Conch Republic, are calling on their foodie friends to help them find cures for blood cancer. Other candidates include John Daylor, of Joyner Fine Properties; Anna Elko, a marketing consultant; Teresa
James, of VCU Medical Center; Asad Khan, of VCU Medical Center; Adam Pendleton, a New York artist (whose work has been shown at the MoMa, the Whitney, and the New Museum); and Lynn Polizos, of Polizos & Company Communications.
This year’s candidates are also raising funds in honor of a Boy & Girl of the Year, who are named each year to be the “Face of the Campaign.” Sofie Stebbins, who is 4 years old, and 8-year-old Nathan Orban are this year’s honorees and both are in remission. Leukemia is the leading cause of cancer death of children and young adults under the age of 20.
Teresa James, an oncology certified registered nurse and clinical coordinator of the VCU Massey Cancer Center at Stony Point, says that she is looking forward to not only competing but also honoring friends and loved ones at the gala this May. James was first touched by cancer at 16 when her 4-year-old sister was diagnosed. Today, James works daily with patients she refers to as “fighters.”
“They have no choice, the least I can do is help them through this journey, care for them, and raise as much money as I can to find a cure,” says James.
To get your ticket to the gala, visit mwoy.org/va or 804-673-5690.
Sande Snead was the 2012 LLS VA Woman of the Year, following in the footsteps of her brother-in-law, Kevin Shimp, the 2011 Man of the Year, and followed by her sister, Jill Shimp, 2013 Woman of the Year.