Because children can't fight alone

Lenchner looks forward to raising awareness about childhood cancer

By KEREN BARUCH
On March 11, 2014

  • Lizzy Lenchner, a junior psychology major and founder of UB Greeks for a Cure, hopes the group’s event Wednesday will make the UB community aware of the impact college students can have on the lives of children with cancer. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

Before her death, Talia Castellano, makeup blogger, Covergirl and Internet celebrity, said, "In a hundred years, I want to be remembered as the bubbly girl who wanted to do something about childhood cancer."

In September 2013, The Spectrum reported on Lizzy Lenchner's passion for raising money and awareness for childhood cancer research. Lenchner, a junior psychology major and Castellano's counselor at Sunrise Day Camp, was inspired by the 14-year-old to make a difference in the lives of kids fighting against cancer and their families.

Wednesday at 6 p.m. in 112 Norton Hall, Lenchner will continue her journey to make a difference in the lives of children with cancer. UB Greeks for a Cure is hosting its first event of the semester, sponsored by UB's Inter-Greek Council (IGC). The goal of the event is to show the UB community the importance of helping children fight against cancer, because they do not have the power to fight alone, Lenchner said.

"Childhood cancers are different than adult cancers," Lenchner said. "They have different causes, so they need different research to find a cure. There is a huge misconception about government funding for cancer research. Let's fix that."

Lenchner is helping to ensure Castellano is remembered as that "bubbly girl" and is living out her dreams of doing something about childhood cancer, because Castellano isn't here to live them out herself.

All types of childhood cancers combined receive only 4 percent of federal funding for cancer research, according to the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer. Lenchner said this percentage is "completely unacceptable" and "needs to change." Founding UB Greeks for a Cure in Dec. 2012 was one of Lenchner's initial steps in making that change.

On Wednesday, there will be tables in the Student Union from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. devoted to increasing student awareness about pediatric cancer, raising money for research and getting a petition signed.

The petition, created by The Truth 365, a social media campaign supporting children fighting cancer, aims to make childhood cancer research a national priority. Lenchner has close ties with the organization; she believes strongly in its mission, which is to "educate and mobilize millions of people through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social networking sites," according to its website.

Shawn Kobetz, a junior communication major and president of IGC, said he "basically forced" Lenchner to run for the IGC e-board so she could help push Greek Life toward participating in philanthropy events dedicated to childhood cancer.

"Last year, AEPI and Phi Sig joined to start Greeks Against Cancer with Talia Castellano as the inspiration," Kobetz said. "We raised $2,700 and knew we wanted to do it again. [Lizzy] has been truly amazing. This event would be nothing without her."

Kobetz said it's inspiring to see how much work Lenchner puts into each event IGC hosts. Lenchner, as well as Castellano, inspire Kobetz to continue fighting.

Megan Williams, a "cancer mom," according to her blog, will be a guest speaker at Wednesday night's event. In Jan. 2009, Williams' son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of pediatric cancer. Williams finds writing to be an "excellent way to express her feelings, share [her family's] story and make connections with some amazing people from the comfort of [her] own home," according to her blog.

Lenchner looks forward to Williams' speech. She believes her words will inspire the UB community to become involved in making a difference in the lives of children with cancer.

Wednesday's events will also feature an emotional video about pediatric cancer and a raffle to help raise more money toward research, along with a "secret ceremony," according to Lenchner.

Lenchner encourages students outside the Greek community to become involved in her fight. She is also president of UB's Pre-Dental Association and a part of the psychology program at UB.

Jacquie Kreckel, a senior art history major and aspiring dentist, sees Lenchner's passion to fight against cancer and to make Castellano's dreams come true inside and outside of the classroom.

"Lizzy and I both want to become dentists so I spend a decent amount of time with her," Kreckel said. "I see her need to find a cure for children's cancer every day. I don't think she will ever stop."

Castellano solidified Lenchner's desire to become a dentist. When Lenchner was her counselor, Castellano always said she would feel more confident and beautiful if she had nice teeth. That touched Lenchner's heart, and now she is devoting her career to give children like Castellano the smiles they want and deserve.

Kreckel is helping Lenchner table in the Student Union. She baked cupcakes with gold icing ribbons on them to represent the importance of children's cancer. Even those small gestures - like using gold icing - make Lenchner feel as if her efforts are impacting others.

Kreckel said if it weren't for Lenchner, students like herself might not have become so involved with pediatric cancer.

Lenchner's dad, Mitchell, said his daughter has always been empathic and caring, even though she has a full course load and responsibilities. He said she still finds "ample time for this special cause to help eradicate childhood cancer."

Lenchner's dad said he has never seen his daughter's heart so broken they way it was when Castellano passed away.

"She told me she had to do something to help defeat this malevolent disease," Mitchellsaid. "Last year as Philanthropic Chairperson of her sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, she organized a drive to raise money for childhood cancer research and raised about $2,700."

 This year, as Vice President of Educational Programming, Lechner's goal is to raise $5,000."

Mitchell has no doubts his daughter will fulfill her goal.

Each year approximately 13,500 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer, according to The Truth 365. Lenchner said she will never stop fighting, the same way Castellano never gave up on her battle, until that statistic is completely diminished.

The biggest point she wants to get across to UB students on Wednesday is that "college students have the power to make a difference."

 

email: features@ubspectrum.com


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