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At least seven Eastern Iowans will compete this spring for the chance to be Man and Woman of the Year as part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's annual fundraiser.
'This is our largest fundraising event in Iowa,' Eastern Iowa Leukemia and Lymphoma Society campaign manager Jenna Sager said.
Each candidate will form a team and establish a website for fundraising. Starting March 3, the candidates will have 10 weeks to raise as much money as they can.
Each dollar earned represents a vote toward the title of Man or Woman of the Year.
Donations go toward blood cancer research, education and advocacy to help find a cure and improve quality of life for cancer patients and their families.
Each year, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) holds a campaign for Man and Woman of the Year (MWOY). Last year's Man and Woman of the Year campaign in Iowa raised $375,000. Nationwide, donations from 900 candidates reached $36 million.
The goal this year is to reach $360,000, or ideally, their 'stretch goal' of $400,000.
Each candidate forms a team and establishes a website for fundraising, but candidates are encouraged to get creative in their fundraising efforts, Sager said.
For example, 2015 Man of the Year Mike Anderson created a website with the theme 'own every second' (www.owneverysecond.org) that put faces to the illness by sharing individuals' stories of battling cancer. He also collaborated with Big Grove Brewery in Solon to introduce Iowa's first triple IPA, 'Buster,' which was sold through bars and restaurants with some of the profits returning to his campaign. He hosted a waffle breakfast, an art gallery, a fun run and more.
After 10 weeks, his campaign broke the Iowa Leukemia and Lymphoma Society donation record with $140,000.
2015 Woman of the Year Kathy Moeder started her campaign with a goal of $40,000. She couldn't imagine raising that kind of money in 10 weeks, but after nine fundraising events, including a bags tournament, a purse party and a creative project from her daughter called 'change it' jars, where donations were made via a jar of pocket change, Moeder had raised $125,000.
The donation period this year will end May 20 with a grand finale celebration at the Doubletree in Cedar Rapids. The Eastern Iowa chapter will host a dinner and announce the 2016 winners.
Nominations for candidates will remain open until March 3, but Sager advised nominating before Feb. 6 — the date of a workshop that prepares candidates with fundraising tools and examples from past campaigns.
Sager, Anderson and Moeder agreed that the best nominees are those who are philanthropic, outgoing, compassionate, energetic, driven and open to trying new things.
Moeder said it needs to be someone who will 'give it their all' for 'a hardcore 10 weeks,' but encouraged candidates not to 'underestimate themselves or the power of people.'
As long as candidates talk to and write to as many people as they can, they will have no trouble, she said.
'Somebody always knows somebody that is impacted by this horrible disease. ... You run into it constantly,' she said. 'They will know somebody, and it will become personal. They will want to help.'
When Moeder first was nominated for Woman of the Year, she thought she might be too busy — being a mother of two and co-owner of her family business, Office Express. But upon reflection of her own experiences watching her father and brother battle cancer and losing a childhood friend to cancer, she reconsidered.
'We're not as busy as we think we are,' she said. 'We all have time to make a difference."
In fact, Sager said they look for candidates that are busy because 'those are the type of people that get things done.'
Anderson encouraged more candidates to come forward.
'It's one of the most amazing experiences they'll ever have,' he said. 'Whether they raise $10,000 or $150,000, every bit counts.'
'It was life changing,' Moeder added. 'You realize what a gift your health is and how important it is to help others.'
Although research into blood cancers has come a long way, Anderson said noted there still isn't a cure.
'It takes programs like man and woman of the year to really make that happen,' he said.
In the end, even though it's a competition, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society always wins, Anderson said.
'All these things we're doing raise awareness and money that goes toward finding a cure,' he said.
The seven candidates committed to the Eastern Iowa Leukemia and Lymphoma Society campaign so far are:
[naviga:ul] [naviga:li]Carla Brems of Destinations Unlimited[/naviga:li] [naviga:li]Cat Cantrill of Vitality Fitness and Dance Studio[/naviga:li] [naviga:li]Brent Hawkins of Hawkins Wealth Management[/naviga:li] [naviga:li]Fred Johnston of Alliant Energy[/naviga:li] [naviga:li]Jennifer Olson of the Iowa County Commission of Veterans Affairs[/naviga:li] [naviga:li]Paige Swartendruber of Berthel Fisher[/naviga:li] [naviga:li]Ryan Wade of Wade Investments[/naviga:li] [/naviga:ul]
Sager hopes to have eight to 10 candidates by March 3, when the campaign kicks off.
There's still time to nominate. Go to www.mwoy.org/nominate to nominate yourself or someone you know that fits the bill.