Local team in the running for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Student of the Year

Isabella Roberts and Gianna Kelly

Best friends Gianna Kelly and Isabella Roberts have banded together to raise funds for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Student of the Year campaign in honor of their grandparents.

In 2018, Gianna lost her grandmother Martha Kelly to leukemia and Isabella’s grandfather Jose Luis Gallardo succumbed to leukemia before she was even born. The girls’ team, Team Abuelos: Legacy of Life, hopes to raise as much money as possible during the seven-week campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) in order to create a world free of cancer. A winner will be announced on March 7.

“Our wish is that no child should go through life without a grandparent or experience losing a grandparent too soon,” said Gianna and Isabella.

Gianna and Isabella, now juniors in high school, have been friends since they were 5-year-old students at Carmel Valley’s Notre Dame Academy’s pre-school. Gianna, who attends Cathedral Catholic High School and Isabella, a student at The Academy of Our Lady of Peace, formed a team made up of their peers who all attend Catholic schools in San Diego—most of the students are also their former Notre Dame Academy classmates.

Team Abuelos includes Sophia Manos, Delaney Diltz, Arden Woltman, Megan Hannon, Julianna Jackson, Gabriel Altamirano, Nicholas Cariquitan and Kyle Wesseln. The students attend Cathedral, Our Lady of Peace and St. Augustine.

“Being raised Catholic, I’ve been taught many valuable morals through school and family. One value, in particular, is giving back to others while not expecting anything in return,” said Gianna. “I cherish this teaching greatly because you never know how much a big or small deed could have a positive impact on someone.”

“To me, one of the most important values I have learned as a Catholic is to serve the dear neighbor with our distinction,” said Isabella. “With this campaign I am doing just that, and using the fundamental values taught to me at Notre Dame Academy, such as we are ‘One Family, Always United,’ and helping each other when in need.”

Team Abuelos with the LLS patient Hero Caden Timmer, a Carmel Valley resident.

Gianna and Isabella’s hope is to make a big impact in supporting cancer research for LLS San Diego and beyond as every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. More than 1.4 million people are living with or in remission from leukemia, myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease. LLS has invested more than $1.3 billion into blood cancer research and provides financial support to patients. Over the last two years, LLS has helped advanced 46 of 52 FDA-approved blood cancer treatments.

In the Student of the Year campaign, Team Abuelos works to raise the most funds alongside 15 teams throughout San Diego, including Team Cinderella, composed of Jane Kenny and Carrie Su from Canyon Crest Academy. Every year students in the campaign raise money in honor of a young local patient hero who is currently battling or is in remission from a blood cancer. This year’s LLS San Diego honored hero is Caden Timmer, a Carmel Valley 13-year-old.

Caden Timmer, this year's Leukemia & Lymphoma Society honored hero.

Caden was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in January 2017. For the next few months, Caden underwent chemotherapy that kept him out of school and unable to participate in the sports and activities he loved. Caden kept up his positive attitude throughout and started maintenance in February 2018. Now a student at Pacific Trails Middle School, Caden will be in treatment until May 2020 but he is back on the soccer team and also enjoys running.

Team Abuelos said hearing Caden’s story inspired them to work even harder at raising funds.

To contribute to Team Abuelos, visit https://events.lls.org/sd/sdsoy20/abuelos