Over seven decades, the national Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has put more than $1.2 billion into cancer research.
“That’s billion, with a ‘b,’” said Tara Reyka, senior director of development with the Central Pennsylvania LLS chapter
Come mid-May, Harrisburg resident J. Marc Kurowski hopes to add $250,000 to the pot.
By day, Kurowski is co-founder, president and CEO of K&W Engineering, a busy engineering firm located in the stately King Mansion on Front Street. By night, he and his team turn their attention to a rigorous, 10-week fundraising campaign for LLS’s national “All Star Man and Woman of the Year” competition.
By raising $23,000 back in 2010, Kurowski earned his local “Man of the Year” title with the Central Pennsylvania LLS chapter. Nearly 10 years later, he’s hoping to increase that number 10-fold at the national level—the “All Star” competition.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m never going to cure cancer,” Kurowski said. “But I can do this to try to be part of the solution, part of beating cancer.”
Man/Woman of the Year is a “philanthropic competition where local community leaders and individuals come together to really form some inspiring fundraising teams and compete in joining us in the fight for cancer cures,” said Reyka.
And just as it sounds, the man and the woman who raise the most money during this 10-week challenge are named their local chapter’s Man and Woman of the Year (MWOY).
“All Stars” like Kurowski are MWOY alum now chosen by their local markets to compete nationally. So Kurowski is battling other All Stars from around the country, people representing communities from New York to California.
The male and female who raise the most funds during the campaign are named the National Man & Woman of the Year All Stars.
Kurowski and his team are vowing to give it all they’ve got. According to Reyka, there’s one secret ingredient to finding success during this competition—a “why.”
“I think for someone to be successful, it takes their desire to make a difference in the world of cancer cures,” she said. “They don’t need a certain background. They don’t need to have certain experiences by any means or be fundraising gurus.”
As for Kurowski’s “why,” it’s a relatable one. He, like many folks, has felt cancer’s impact.
“I’ve lost too many family members,” he said. “I’ve lost a coworker and a close friend in the last year that were cancer-related. They weren’t all specifically blood cancers, but, to me, I’d do anything to start combatting cancer.”
So how, exactly, does Kurowski and his team plan on raising $250,000?
Through sponsorships, a fundraising event and expanding his network of team members. But most importantly, he is using what he learned in 2010 to perfect this year’s recipe for fundraising success.
Kurowski admits he didn’t quite have his head wrapped around everything he needed to do the first time around. But this year, he began gearing up months in advance and has honed the art of delegation.
His competitive spirit also doesn’t hurt.
“I’m certainly competitive, so that drives me,” he said. “But the bigger driver is having been impacted by people close to me and honestly really feeling like this is something we can accomplish. I feel like this is something we can do.”
All Star competitors can fundraise for 10 weeks between February and June. Kurowski and the local MWOY competitors began collecting donations on March 8 and will finish on May 17.
According to Reyka, Kurowski isn’t the only one with a large goal in mind. As a whole, the Central PA LLS chapter hopes to raise $650,000 through the local MWOY competition.
Where does that money go? Reyka said that the Central PA chapter provided a staggering $818,562 last year alone in financial support to patients for drug and insurance copayments, in addition to health insurance premiums.
Unlike other forms of cancer, there are no preventative methods to help catch blood cancer early. That’s why the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s mission is to “find cures for blood cancer and improve the quality of life for patients and their families.”
According to Reyka, this disease can affect anyone, of any walk of life.
“We don’t know necessarily what causes [blood cancer], and it affects people of all ages, gender, race, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “Blood cancer does not discriminate. Anyone and everyone can be affected by it.”
Through the money raised by Kurowski and the rest of Central PA’s participants, LLS is focused on “funding the best researchers out there who are on the cutting edge of finding great breakthroughs,” said Reyka.
While there’s no trophy for reaching the finish line, Kurowski believes that personal satisfaction will be enough.
“Knowing that you’ve been able to help at hopefully a significant level, that for me is what it’s all about,” he said. “Touching people, talking to people. It’s being so engaged in something you believe in that you can be impactful at potentially a significant level.”
J. Marc Kurowski and his team will host an LLS fundraising event at the King Mansion on April 13. To donate to his campaign, visit his fundraising site at www.pages.mwoy.org/cpa/hbg19/mkurowski.