DJ Anderson, a 17-year-old senior honor student and athlete at Johnston High School, knows just how grueling a campaign can be.
For the past seven weeks, Anderson, who also skilled in martial arts, has hosted multiple fundraisers as part of his effort to raise $50,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or LLS.
He has been backed by Panthers for a Cure, a group of 10 Johnston High School students who have worked tirelessly in helping Anderson reach his ambitious goal.
Panthers for a Cure is one of eight teams of high school students across Rhode Island who have been working toward getting their candidate the prestigious title of LLS Rhode Island Student of the Year.
By 11 o’clock Saturday night, Anderson will learn if Panthers for a Cure has reached its goal and whether or not he becomes Student of the Year and wins the accompanying $30,000 college scholarship.
“DJ has done an outstanding job,” Jordan Browning, an LLS executive who has worked with Panthers for a Cure, told Mayor Joseph Polisena, who invited Anderson to his Executive Chamber last Friday. “We are proud of what he and his team have accomplished and next year we’re hoping to have many more Johnston students involved in the annual campaign.”
But as Polisena told Browning and Anderson, “I’m a nurse and I know all too well about leukemia and lymphoma. Congratulations for taking on such a huge task, and we wish you all the best.”
The mayor also told Anderson he’d put a notice on the digital sign in front of Town Hall with information regarding where people can send donations. The message, the mayor said, “will be seen by thousands and thousands of people during the week.”
Anderson’s final fundraiser, a Pampered Chef Party, will be held tonight and runs until midnight.
During the campaign, Anderson has hosted martial arts events, dress down days, and last Thursday night’s Quarter Auction at Emmily’s Restaurant on Route 44 that featured 15 vendors.
“The support DJ has received has been phenomenal,” said his mother, Stephanie Anderson. “Take the Quarter Auction … [Johnston High School] yearbook advisor and teacher Michael Harwood donated two yearbooks for the auction, and Margaret Guilmette, the senior class advisor, donated a beautiful handmade stuffed animal.”
Wishes under Wrap, a local business, donated a gift basket for the night’s activity that included a 50/50 raffle, and Emmily’s donated a portion of the night’s food sales that included some 70 people enjoying dinner.
Saturday night, the LLS Grand Finale will be held at Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln. All eight fundraising teams will learn their final totals as well as who will be honored with the prestigious title of Rhode Island Student of Year.
The real winner, though, as Browning and LLS Executive Director Carla Mulhearn will say, will be the LLS and its “Honored Hero” Ella Integlia, who is an acute leukemia and lymphoma cancer survivor.
Ella was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, ALL, on May 16, 2014, after having a stress fracture on her foot and months of uncertainties about her health. She went through treatments but remained a fighter, and had her last treatment was on June 24, 2018. Ella will be on hand Saturday night – and, as LLS officials announced, is currently cancer free.