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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Friend’s illness spurs teen to raise more than $65,000 for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

By Allison Perry
Special to KyForward

Nine years ago, Versailles native Brett Butzer decided to join a fundraising effort at The Lexington School for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk after his friend, Will, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Brett Butzer started his fundraising efforts after a friend was diagnosed with leukemia. (Photo from UKNow)

That year, he exceeded a small but still impressive goal of $1,000. Inspired, he decided to push further the next year, campaigning more on his own and doubling his goal — and meeting it.

Since then, Brett, along with his mother, Jan — members of the UK Markey Cancer Center’s “Markey & Friends” team for the annual LLS fundraiser — have consistently raised the bar. This year, his grand total for the fundraiser tops $15,000. Since he began in 2004, Brett has raised more than $65,000 total.

“It’s great that a young person like Brett has taken an interest in this,” said Robin Fisher, who works for Markey’s Outpatient Services and serves as team captain for Markey & Friends. “He and Jan have done a beautiful job and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

One of the factors in Brett’s success is his letter-writing campaign. Every year, he and his mom send out letters to their colleagues, family and friends to give updates on how Will is doing, introduce that year’s LLS “hero,” and ask for donations to the worthy cause. Will — who is the son of Dr. Dianna Howard at the UK Markey Cancer Center — is 17 now and more than five years out from his last treatment.

Brett and Jan Butzer have raised more than $65,000 over nine years. (Photo from UKNow)

Jan, who is also friends with Howard, notes that making those personal connections to people affected by cancer has been key to their success.

“As soon as you open your mouth, you see that somebody knows somebody who has been affected by blood cancer,” Jan said.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancers. Money raised on behalf of the LLS helps fund lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.

Fundraising for the LLS has a great impact on patients in this area, says Howard. Last year, Markey’s Hematology and Blood and Marrow Transplant Program outpatient clinic had 6,822 total visits by patients, and more than 1,500 patients have received bone marrow transplants at UK HealthCare since the program was founded in 1982. Many of these patients are able to take advantage of LLS services including grants and hardship money to help pay for treatment, travel funds, and more.

“What the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society does in the community is huge, and our efforts to support them have come back to our patients, for sure,” Howard said. “About 75 percent of LLS funds go toward those patient services.”

Jan and Brett will attend the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s annual fundraising awards dinner tonight with Robin Fisher. In 2009, the LLS named Brett their “Volunteer of the Year,” the youngest person to receive that honor. Brett says he’s just happy to know that his efforts are going to a good cause.

“I feel like I’m really helping the research for these cancers,” Brett said. “Having raised such a big sum of money is awesome because of that.”

For the next year, Brett says he and his mother may split into two teams to compete in honor of two different patients — with the hopes that they can raise even more money.

“What’s unique about Brett is his giving spirit — he’s always looking for a cause,” Howard said. “He’s a great young man.”

For more information on the Markey & Friends team for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, contact Fisher at rafish3@uky.edu.

Allison Perry is an information specialist at the University of Kentucky.



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