Carmel Valley teen becomes first Student of Year to be honored by Leukemia Society


Carmel Valley teenager Hershey Suri was recently named the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year for the San Diego and Hawaii chapter.

This was the first year that LLS has honored a student, and Hershey, a junior at Francis Parker High School, was recognized for her efforts in raising more than $10,000 for the cause.

Crossing the $10,000 mark was a big accomplishment for Hershey, as her initial goal was to bring in $3,500.

“I was really excited, especially as it was my first time ever raising money. I definitely want to do it again next year,” Hershey said, noting she was especially proud that she was able to surpass her goals, despite being busy with AP tests and finals. “The whole experience really changed my life.”

LLS exists to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. Thanks to fundraisers like Hershey, the San Diego chapter brought in more than $400,000 this year and across the country they raised more than $4 million. Funds assist the most promising blood cancer research to find a cure and to make sure patients have access to the treatment and providers they need to live longer and better lives.

Hershey found out about the Student of the Year contest from her school and had to write an essay to LLS. After being selected, she had 10 weeks to raise as much money as she could.

“I wanted to make a difference in something, but I never had the opportunity,” Hershey said. “I thought this would be a cool way to give back and make a difference in so many people’s lives.”

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s mission was close to Hershey’s heart, as her aunt lost her mother to leukemia. When Hershey was in fourth grade, her close friend lost a brother to neuroblastoma at age 7.

“I know how much it affects families, and it affected me,” she said.

For her fundraising efforts, Hershey contacted her former principal at Solana Highlands School, Jerry Jones, now the principal at Solana Ranch School.

“I wanted to raise money and do it my own way to be a new experience for me,” Hershey said.

She put jars in all 22 classrooms and told the students if they raised $50 they would get popsicles, if they raised $100 they would get pizza and if they raised more than $150 they would get popsicles and pizza. In two weeks, the students raised more than $4,000 — one classroom alone contributing $300 worth of coins, dollars and checks.

Hershey enlisted her cousin, Raj Sawhney, in Orange County, who brought in $1,000 at his Sihk temple. At her own Sihk temple in Poway, she appealed to the golden rule of her religion to help others and was able to collect $750.

The additional money came from her large family, whose members were all happy to contribute, and thanks to Qualcomm, which matches employee donations dollar for dollar.

In addition to her fundraising work, Hershey is also a taekwondo black belt, is involved in theater and mock trial at her school, and participates in various community service projects.

She said she is looking forward to a summer fundraiser to offer self-defense classes in schools and toward trying to improve on this year’s efforts for LLS.

“I have a lot of goals set for myself, I have a lot of high expectations, but I’m excited to see what I can do and if I can pull it off,” Hershey said.