BBHHS team takes top honors in raising funds for cancer cause

by Dan Holland

Team Compass, a student-led team consisting of approximately 25 students at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, earned top honors in this year’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Student Visionaries of the Year campaign, besting 36 Northeast Ohio high schools by raising $114,000 over a seven-week period to support LLS and its mission.

This year’s student visionaries consist of junior Kayla Kosla and sophomores Gabriella Gawlik and Ella Rundo. This is the fourth year BBHHS sponsored a team in the competition.

All funds benefit LLS’s mission to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Team Compass, which far surpassed its initial goal of raising $40,000, was awarded college scholarship money for its first-place efforts.

“We thought we’d be somewhere in the group of top teams toward the end of the campaign, but we were still very surprised to be the team that raised the most, especially since the Cleveland area had a record high number of teams participating this year,” said Rundo. “We made sure to recognize that every team made an impact for this cause and contributed to the over $1 million raised in total. The three of us were excited to hear that our winning efforts earned us scholarship money towards college, too.”

“Our overall total of $114,000 was a complete surprise to us; I think what most contributed to that was how much we prepared,” added Gawlik. “We had been preparing since August to make sure we had large events that would bring in a good amount of money, as well as knowing we had contacts and support from the community.”

A number of local events to raise money for the cause included two performances by Magician Rick Smith Jr., held at the BBH Middle School on Feb. 24; a BBH elementary kids’ night out at Fun-n-Stuff on Feb. 8; and a “Cheers for a Cure” event held at Broadview Brewing Company on Jan. 25. In addition, the Kiwanis Club of Brecksville donated funds from its annual Trick-or-Trot run and walk to help support this year’s team.

BBHHS Principal Kevin Jakub, who has been involved with the program for the past four years, first became involved while working as an assistant principal at Bay High School in Bay Village.

“Two of my former students were both diagnosed with Leukemia & Lymphoma non-Hodgkins when they were in high school there,” said Jakub. “The school principal reached out to me and got me involved with it the following year. When I saw it, I realized how much capacity there was for the program.”

Last year’s BBHHS team Team Arrow, led by students Megan Macy, Sydney Macy and Nikolina Racic, raised more than $50,000.

Team Compass’ Kosla said she decided early on in this year’s campaign to step up her involvement. “After being a team member for two years, I decided to take the leadership role this year because I felt inspired by our school’s past LLS candidates and thought I was well prepared to take on a leadership role,” she said.

“For the Brecksville-Broadview Heights community to [be able to] say that we’ve raised more than $250,000 in the last four years for LLS is something not many other communities can say,” said Jakub. “I think that speaks to the special nature of the residents and the partnership between the schools and the community that exists here. We have our fifth-year team already committed to next year, with kids asking how they can be involved.”

Team Compass learned they were this year’s winners during the grand finale held March 8 at Windows on the River in Cleveland.

“It was surreal winning LLS Student Visionaries. We had no idea we were going to win,” said Kosla. “I personally have a huge admiration for all the other teams involved; they all did such amazing work, and combined we raised over a million dollars, which is incredible. Our team’s mission statement was: ‘We, Team Compass, are pointing in the direction of a cure for cancer.’” ∞

Photo: Team Compass leaders, Kayla Kosla, Gabriella Gawlik and Ella Rundo, celebrate their win in the LLS Student Visionaries Campaign. Photo submitted.