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Local student helps raise over $100,000 for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Over the past two years as the head of a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraising team, Grauer School senior Jason Wexler has helped raise over $100,000 through the LLS’ Students of the Year program.

Jason Wexler leads team "Answer for Cancer" in the LLS Students of the Year competition.
(Courtesy)

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Students of the Year campaign is a seven-week nationwide campaign held annually by LLS, lasting from Jan. 13 to March 6. This year Jason is a candidate for Students of the Year for a third and final time and he is more motivated than ever despite the unique challenges of fundraising during a pandemic.

Jason’s team, Answer for Cancer, includes 27 mostly fellow musical theater students that he recruited from other schools including Canyon Crest Academy (Alara, Allison, Caroline, Connor, Danielle, Elizabeth, Emily, Kourosh, Marc, Mia, Nika, Payton, Sofia and Zeyna), Torrey Pines High School (Audrey, Gianna), Cathedral Catholic High School (Colleen), Francis Parker School (Talia), Pacific Ridge (Gibson, Stella), Mission Bay High School (Kai), Mt. Carmel High School (Alicia), Torah High School (Natalie), Westview High School (Katie, Shira), University City High School (Rachael) and classmate Gabriel from The Grauer School.

In the past, his team had used the theater as a “stage” to fundraise, including live musical performances. “Most events look different this year,” Jason said.

Due to the pandemic, they can no longer host in-person events so they have been forced to get creative. This month they hosted a virtual yoga class and on Tuesday, Feb. 23, they will hold a restaurant night at The Kebab Shop in Encinitas in which 50% of the proceeds from that day will go to the group.

On Sunday, Feb. 28, Answer for Cancer will also host a virtual poker tournament.

Despite the pandemic, the need to also focus on the fight against cancer has not gone away, Jason said. Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Cancer has impacted Jason’s life personally as one of his good friends, Ella, sadly lost her father to Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a cousin continues to fight against leukemia.

“Since I was really little I wanted to cure cancer,” said Jason, whose parents like to tell the story of how Jason would mix up “potions” in the backyard which he believed were the cure.

While he doesn’t have the education or resources to cure cancer, he said he can do something to make a difference in the fight by raising money for LLS and cancer research efforts, “That’s something that definitely is important to me,” he said.

Since 2017, LLS has helped advance 58 out of the 68 blood cancer treatment options approved by the FDA. Many of these treatments have helped those suffering from other forms of cancer, as well as other diseases.

Jason first heard of the Students of the Year competition in 2018 and took the initiative to form his own team. In his first year, Jason’s team raised $36,000 and came in second place. In 2019, the team doubled its goal and raised $72,000.

Jason’s mother Sherri Wexler admires the leadership qualities that participating in the Students of the Year competition has brought out in her son.

“Jason has always looked to make the world a better place and put an end to suffering,” Sherri said in a release. “And I have witnessed his personal growth through this experience.”

His leadership has not gone unrecognized as Jason was named one of the San Diego Jewish Teen Initiative’s 18 Under 18 Award recipients and was one of two students awarded the Peter Chortek Leadership Award by the San Diego Jewish Community Foundation.

In his pandemic-interrupted senior year, Jason said he is grateful that he is able to attend in-person school at Grauer and that he has been able to continue to perform in musical theater at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. He is still waiting to hear back from colleges but he hopes to pursue a degree in film with a double major in business.

Jason is very proud of his team this year and would love to see them take the title of Students of the Year but ultimately his goal is to raise as much money as possible for those in need and make a positive difference in the world.

To join Jason and Answer for Cancer and their fight to raise money for LLS, visit events.lls.org/sd/SDSOY21/jwexler.


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