JERICHO, N.Y. (FOX 5 NY) - The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has an additional $278,664 to invest in life-saving cancer research thanks to Jericho High School juniors Benjamin Mark, Ryan Berger, and Drew Naiburg-Smith.
"My grandfather actually passed away from a type of very aggressive blood cancer, acute myeloid leukemia," Berger said. "And to me and my family this was really important to give back to a community that gave to our family when he was diagnosed with this."
After a selective interview process, the three students were all chosen to participate in the nonprofit's Student of the Year competition. They joined forces to act as catalysts for change, lead fundraising efforts, and assemble a devoted team of thirty-five other students.
"Every three minutes someone is diagnosed and every 10 minutes someone passes from a blood cancer," said Sara Lipsky, the executive director of the Long Island chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Each of the three candidates and their team members recruited family members and friends to help donate to their cause using an online platform. In the comments section, some donors even expressed what the disease personally means to them.
The students also held fundraising events at local restaurants, gyms, and businesses.
"It was very overwhelming how giving people were in our community, and all of a sudden, like week two, we were already in the tens of thousands. We didn't even realize what happened. We surpassed our goal immediately," Naiburg-Smith says.
The Jericho Students raised the most money out of 988 other teams from 56 nationwide chapters.
The modest teenagers say they'll be donating their $2,500 in scholarship winnings right back to charity.
"I think it sends a message that they should get up, go outside, try and raise money, and change the world for the better," Mark added.