LLS Boy of the Year Keeps Fundraisers Motivated
Writer / Matt Keating
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Drake Williams, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Boy of the Year, is an active 5-year-old who takes swimming lessons, ice skates and plays soccer and T-ball.
And he’s also busy meeting a wide range of fans helping LLS.
His mother, Abby, said Drake, who was diagnosed with leukemia on April 1, 2015, has been popular with everyone he has met with The LLS Boy of the Year program.
“Drake was ecstatic when he found out he was going to be the Boy of the Year and has really enjoyed meeting all of the great people who are raising money for LLS,” Abby said. “He has made a lot of new friends.”
Abby said she and her husband, Kyle, who works at Century 21 Scheetz, and their other children, Cole, 12, and Rose, 9, have been overwhelmed with support from family and friends.
“The list of people who have helped has been endless,” Abby said. “We have had everything from meals being dropped off at the house, to continued prayers from fellow parishioners at St. Joan of Arc, Indianapolis, to a mysterious blow-up Santa showing up in our front yard, high attendance at blood drives, and Drake being asked to serve as the coin toss kid for The Indianapolis Colts. He also met Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano.
Abby, the assistant head of School for Enrollment Management and Communications at St. Richard’s Episcopal School, said St. Richard’s was incredibly responsive during Drake’s initial diagnosis and during his continuous attendance in junior kindergarten.
When Drake was first diagnosed with leukemia, Abby said she and Kyle had no idea “what it meant to have high-risk Leukemia or that kids received chemo through a port surgically implanted in their chest or through double shots in their legs. We didn’t know that the issues of early detection and cancer prevention would come to be such important topics to us.”
Abby noted that early detection and money for research are necessary in the fight to prevent and treat cancer.
“As parents, we must be headstrong in asking questions, getting answers and pursuing the best course of treatment for our children,” Abby said.
For the past eight years, Indianapolis has hosted a 10-week fundraising event each spring to raise funds for LLS. The organization’s Man & Woman of the Year Campaign invites candidates to fundraise for 10 weeks through online donations, sponsorship and auction items. The titles are awarded to the man and woman who raise the most funds during the 10-week period. Candidates typically have a personal connection to LLS, or a willingness to learn about it, are self-motivated, enthusiastic, influential and have a track record of success in business and community endeavors.
The candidates compete for the title in honor of local blood cancer patients and survivors who are the Boy/Girl of the Year (BGOY). The BGOY help put a face to leukemia and that makes each candidate’s involvement more personal. They are the motivation and inspiration behind the entire campaign. The families are invited to share their story at candidate events, included on donation letters sent out by candidates, and featured on their campaign materials as the honored heroes for the campaign season.
Since 2009, 92 candidates have raised $4.2 million in Indianapolis. In 2016, 14 Indianapolis candidates raised a record-breaking $1.1 million.
Abby hopes the record breaking continues. She has been asked to speak at several different events and causes.
“I view this as a way for us to continue to be supported,” Abby said. “Spreading awareness for childhood cancer and the need for research and funding provides us with fuel to continue Drake’s treatment through July, 2018.”
Drake’s story can be found on Facebook.com/diaryofasturdykid.
“We came up with this name based on the books that our kids love, ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ series,” Abby said. “Drake, however, is far from wimpy, and many have called him ‘sturdy,’ since he was as young as six months old.
“Even now, with a full head of hair, and some extra pounds, people often forget he is taking an intense amount of chemotherapy on a daily basis,” Abby added. “In fact, there are days when he takes more than a dozen pills and receives chemotherapy through his port, and he will return to school the next day or play in a soccer game that night. That’s how sturdy he is.”