The Alabama Gulf Coast Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) raises funds through a variety of signature campaigns held annually to support their mission. From their Light the Night walk in Rail Road park each fall, to their Students of the Year campaign and Man & Woman of the year campaigns, which take place in the spring and summer.

The 2020 Birmingham Man & Woman of the Year campaign was just 3 weeks away from kicking off when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of a cocktail reception at Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham and Grand Finale Gala at Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum. LLS had to quickly re-think a full year’s worth of planning and strategically restructure the execution of the campaign, keeping in mind both our mission, as well as our valued volunteers who had been nominated to run for Man & Woman of the Year several months ahead of this unexpected crisis.

15 dedicated candidates had signed on months earlier to save lives, by fundraising through a series of corporate sponsor asks, personal asks, and team events. Despite the obstacles they faced, no candidate dropped out of the campaign. Not a single one gave up. Instead, they worked with LLS campaign managers to come up with new ways of raising funds and honored their commitment to the cause. The kick-off event became a virtual event where the boy and girl of the year’s families were able to share their children’s stories of survival. Guests dressed up for the event, donning their original kick-off reception outfits, and held a virtual toast to celebrate the ongoing effort.

Many candidates innovated unique virtual events to raise lifesaving funds. From virtual yoga, to an online cooking course from a renowned Birmingham chef, to Dancersize, to virtual concerts, karaoke nights, and online bingo.

LLS celebrated the candidates with a virtual Mid-Point event, 5 weeks into the 10-week campaign, where each candidate was surprised with a personal quote from one of their team members about how they inspire them. The Grand Finale Gala also became a virtual celebration, hosted by ABC 33/40’s Brenda Ladun on June 26.

The Man of the Year campaign winner was Chris Devine, with a total of $39,900 raised. Sarah McElvy claimed the title of Woman of the Year by raising $26,000. Runners-up were JR King and Eden Gosney. All together, the 15 candidates raised $210,000! Campaign manager Julie Moon is thrilled that the team was able to beat their goal by $60,000, with all donations coming in after the pandemic hit.

“Although the campaign looked different this year, and while we wish we could have gathered to break bread with these hard-working volunteers, our boy and girl of the year, and our corporate partners, at the end of the day this campaign has never been about a dinner,” says Moon. “It’s about our patients, our donors, our volunteers, and ultimately our mission. So long as cancer is still here, we are still here. Nothing, not even a global pandemic will keep us from fighting for the patients who need us now, more than ever.”

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