Local teens crush competition in fundraising for blood cancers

  • St Mary's County,Calvert County
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Hollywood, MD- A year ago, two local teens made it their mission to make a difference in the battle against blood cancers. Their efforts have earned them the title of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) National Students of the Year.

Cousins Samir Shah, 16, and Saar Shah, 15, witnessed first-hand how cancer affects not just the patient but the entire family. Their cousin, Ami, fought acute myeloid leukemia. She has been cancer-free for seven years. Samir’s father, Amish, was diagnosed with primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma and is now living cancer-free.

After watching their family members in the fight of their lives, the Shah cousins decided to take action. In 2017, they formed a team of fellow high school students to compete in the LLS Maryland Student of the Year competition—the team’s name—Fly4ACure. Little did they know that small step forward would lead to a big leap in the fight against blood cancers.

In March, Samir, a student at The Calverton School, and Saar, a student at Great Mills High School, hosted the first annual Kite Festival in St. Mary’s County—and was a proud sponsor. “Flying a kite is a symbol of having high aspirations and elevated vision,” said Saar Shah. “We believe in our hopes and aspirations to find a cure for all blood cancers.”  While the weather wasn’t very supportive, the community of Southern Maryland was. More than 1,000 people joined Fly4ACure to support the Shah’s efforts.

By the end of March, Samir and Saar were officially named as the Maryland Students of the Year after raising a whopping $413,000. These fundraising superstars and their team worked for weeks and months asking for both public and private donations. In the end, their hard work clearly paid off.

The Shah’s fundraising total set a new record for Maryland’s Student of the Year competition but they had to wait nearly two more months to learn if their dedication and dynamic campaign was enough to claim the title of National Students of the Year.

At a ceremony at The Calverton School May 30, LLS announced the two young men from Southern Maryland were, indeed, the top fundraisers across the country—beating out a team from Atlanta that raised $350,000.

In total, more than 600 students from across the country participated in the campaign and raised $13.6 million, more than double from the previous year. LLS  Chief Product Officer Andrew Coccari stated, “It’s amazing to watch these young men and women work so hard to fund-raise and help us cure cancer. Students of the Year resonates with Generation Z, who want to leave their mark on their school, their community and the world.”

“We know firsthand how important cutting-edge research and treatments are in the fight against cancer,” said Samir Shah (pictured below, right, Saar, left).  “We’re honored to be named this year’s Students of the Year, and we’re grateful to have had this opportunity to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization that helped our family in our time of need.”

Through programs like Students of the Year, LLS has invested more than $1.2 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies. In fact, the treatment approaches pioneered in the blood cancers are now helping patients with other cancers and diseases.

“LLS is at the forefront of the fight to cure cancer and through our fundraising campaigns like Students of the Year, we are helping millions impacted by cancer,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS president and CEO. This program is proof that the youngest generation has the power to help us create a world without cancer.”

To learn more about the Students of the Year program and how it might work for you or someone you know, visit:

Contact Joy Shrum at

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