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Students awarded for Leukemia community outreach
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Georgia
Jake Hale, Watson Kimel and Ross Ashby hold a check for more than $90,000 they raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Georgia during the group’s annual students of the year campaign. - photo by For the FCN

This week, three South Forsyth High School students were awarded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Georgia for their work over the last three months, raising thousands of dollars and awareness in the community for the Georgia organization.

According to Bill Rawlings, a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Georgia’s (LLS) board of trustees, the three young men, Ross Ashby, Jake Hale and Watson Kimel, plus a number of their peers, raised more than $90,000 for the group over seven weeks. 

He said that the effort was part of the annual students of the year campaign held by the Georgia Chapter of LLS. For their work in the community, the three South Forsyth students were awarded the community service award and each given a $500 scholarship from the organization.

“They won the community service award for their outreach to involve both the high school community as well as the south Forsyth and Cumming community in bringing awareness about the need to raise money to cure blood cancers,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings said that between the 33 teams of students that participated in the event this year, they were able to raise more than $1.3 million for the group.

“Every three minutes, somebody is diagnosed with a blood cancer ... so to have people locally helping to bring money to raise awareness brings us that much closer to a cure,” he said.

Throughout the seven week campaign, the boys hosted events at South Forsyth High School, and proceed nights in the community at local businesses like Rosati’s, Frida’s Mexican Cuisine at The Collection and the Black Diamond Grill in south Forsyth.

According to Laura Wilson, principal of South Forsyth High School, when the boys came to her and told her what they wanted to do at the school she was open to the idea, with one caveat. 

“They came in and said, ‘we’d like to ask your permission to do this’ and I said, ‘go for it, I’m here to support you, but y’all are going to run it’ and they did. They really did,’ Wilson said. 

Ashby said that his favorite part of the campaign was getting up in front of all of the South Forsyth students and talking to them about the facts of Leukemia and Lymphoma and what LLS does. 

“I was so nervous about that, but when I finally did it, it was good,” Ashby said. 

When asked what he learned from the experience, Hale said, “just how much people are affected directly and indirectly in the community.”

Wilson added that the way that Ashby, Hale and Kimel handled the campaign was different and more focused than how student campaigns normally play out. 

“We have kids that get involved in all sorts of things. What was really interesting about this one was it was less about them and more about the cause,” she said. 

On Wednesday, Ashby, Hale, Kimel, their parents and a number of other students and friends gathered in the media center of South Forsyth to celebrate the student’s accomplishments and present Rawlings with an oversized check for the money they had gathered for LLS from the community. 

After posing for pictures and thanking the audience each of the boys announced that instead of taking the scholarship money, $1,500 in total, they would each be donating their share back to LLS. 

“It’s been an amazing experience, and it would definitely be cool if someone from south Forsyth did it next year,” Ashby said, looking towards his friends in the crowd. 

“It wasn’t just us, it was a lot of people in a huge team effort, all these people, all our parents,” the three boys said together.