Amazing Grace: $131,040 raised for medical research

Junior receives Student of the Year award


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Grace Gumino poses after being awarded Student of the Year.

Lauren Smith , Reporter

Working for a cause, not for applause.

Junior Grace Gumino raised $131,040 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and received the Student of the Year Award.

Gumino became involved with this organization and began volunteering with her family when she started high school. “My aunt died from lymphoma when I was in fourth grade, and my family friend who watched me when I was a baby died from leukemia when I was younger,” Gumino said.

Every year, Gumino and her family volunteer at a charity walk Downtown on the canal for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Because of Gumino’s dedication, she was nominated to apply for the Student of the Year Award last year; however, it was not the right time. She said, “This is the second year they’ve done (the award), and this year was the right time, so I decided to do it this year.”

Gumino continued, “It is a fundraising competition that lasts for seven weeks for nine high school students, including me. You all compete to raise the most money throughout those weeks, and that can be events, restaurants, sending letters, emails (and more). At the finale gala, you are allowed to have auction items that people can bid on. I had about nine, and whatever those sell for, that money will go to you.”

To raise money, Gumino said, “I had letters go out to every person I knew. I sold a couple ads. I threw a couple of events.” Gumino’s dad serves on the board for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and she said “he is required to raise (or) donate a certain amount of money every year. To help with that, he throws a bourbon tasting event every year in March, and he gave me the profit made this year. I also have a family friend that works at City Barbeque and Catering in Carmel. He helped me set up a dine and donate night where 25 percent of the profit made from people I sent and who showed a specific coupon would go to my campaign. I also sold the valentines with (math teacher) Mrs. (Lisa) Ford’s help.”

Whoever wants to apply for the competition and award may do so; however, specific requirements are in place. Gumino said, “You have to say why you want to do it, and you are asked if you would be able to raise at least $10,000. They are not going to hold it against you if you can’t, but they ask you that you think you are able to.”

The competition took place from Jan. 25 to March 17. Gumino said, “I was a little bit surprised. I did not expect to win for most of the time, and I never once expected that I would raise (as much money as I did).”

She continued, “Along with the award I get a $2,500 scholarship, and because I raised over $100,000, I get two research grants. For the grants I can choose which kind of leukemia or lymphoma I want the money to go to, and I can dedicate it to whoever I want. I ended up dedicating one to my aunt, Rita Schnieders, and giving it to aggressive non-Hodgkins lymphoma (which is what my aunt had).”

On top of that, Gumino said, “I could be nationally ranked within the country for the amount that I raised, but we are not sure when we find out yet.”

The gala took place at the Tom Wood Aviation Fishers Airport. Gumino said there was a cocktail hour and guests could buy tickets during this time. “I had 45 tickets. Most of it was my family. I only had a handful of my friends there. (Because there were nine other candidates), there was about 350 people there. There is a girl and boy every year who have both had either leukemia or lymphoma and you can use their stories to share and (raise money). There is a ceremony for them (during the gala).”

There is a similar campaign called Man and Woman of the Year for adults. Those candidates are introduced at this gala while other people in the back are counting the money raised to see which student wins the Student of the Year Award.

Gumino said, “All nine of us raised just under $380,000. It was a rare experience, and I am glad I did it. It was a lot of fun. It taught me that I am more afraid to miss out on an opportunity than I am to fail at it. It was just great to know that you are making a difference in helping someone else’s life.”