Each year the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society recognizes the unsung heroes who contribute to fighting cancer. On Nov. 12, Dickinson’s Lincoln Elementary students and staff were among those honored with the ‘Lifeblood Award’ presented during the 9th annual Lifeblood Awards. The awards ceremony recognized top fundraisers and volunteer leaders across North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Speaking with The Press, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society commended the continued support of Lincoln Elementary calling the school’s donations “astonishing.”

"We are proud that Lincoln Elementary School continues to be a part of our Hero Squad, ensuring that no child has to take on cancer alone,” said Liz Klug, executive director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Upper Plains region. “The Lincoln Elementary School community raised an astonishing $7,665 during the 2019-2020 school year, earning the title of top fundraising school in all of North Dakota. By uniting students through teamwork, empathy, and respect for others, Lincoln Elementary School is bringing us closer to our ultimate squad goal: a world without blood cancer.”

The program continues to be a successful philanthropic campaign for Lincoln with the school generating more than $30,000 over a span of three years for the LLS.

Proceeds from the campaign go to the LLS, who since 1949 have invested nearly $1.3 billion in groundbreaking research, pioneering many of today’s most innovative approaches to combating Leukemia and Lymphoma cancer.

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The regional award, which accounts for all Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota schools, is the culmination of a dedicated fundraising program spearheaded by Amber Fridley, former school counselor and current school psychologist intern with Lincoln Elementary.

“The last three years we’ve participated in the ‘Pennies for Patients’ campaign with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and it has been a good way to get our kids involved in giving back to our community,” Fridley said. “It gave the kids a chance to do some community service and provide for a really good foundation.”

The genesis of the program stems from Fridley’s desire to find a community engagement program that would benefit people in need.

“It came up a few years ago through a friend of mine that suggested the program to me, and she was pretty passionate about Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because it was close to her heart,” Fridley said. “Heading up the student council at Lincoln, I was looking for some community service projects for our kids to do and looked them up and got connected that way.”

After three years of successful campaigns, Fridley was pleasantly surprised to hear that the school was being recognized for its continued efforts.

“About a month ago we received an email from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society saying that their Lifeblood Award ceremony was being held virtually this year with the conditions going on with COVID,” she said. “Typically the event is held in Minneapolis and they told us that we may want to clear our calendars and to try and attend if we can, with a little ‘wink wink’ implying that we may have a surprise. We didn’t know for sure until the night of the virtual awards ceremony, which was Nov. 12, that we had won.”

The highest earning class during the Pennies for Patients campaign, which received a matched donation from Country House in Dickinson. (Photo courtesy of Lincoln Elementary school)
The highest earning class during the Pennies for Patients campaign, which received a matched donation from Country House in Dickinson. (Photo courtesy of Lincoln Elementary school)

The awards ceremony recognizes the top contributors from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as the overall contributor in the tri-state area.

“There are awards given to each area, and we are a part of that tri-state. The award that Lincoln received is that we were the highest funds raiser in North Dakota,” Fridley said.

Becca Natwick, school counselor with Lincoln Elementary, said that the overall standing is equally commendable.

“In the tri-state area we were the eighth highest funds raiser in total,” Natwick said. "We are certainly going to try and get a ceremony or something scheduled here at the school, because Lincoln always looks for opportunities to recognize our students."

Speaking to the Lincoln Elementary family, Fridley said she was grateful for the community’s continued support in helping those fighting cancer.

“I feel a lot of gratitude toward our families and their continued support. Our Lincoln families opened their hearts with donations and it’s really nice to be able to do the pennies campaign because it allowed kids to bring in their pennies and it shows their empathy to those in need undergoing cancer treatments,” she said. “That online piece of our campaign really connected with a lot of extended family members who were able to donate.”

Fridley added, “A lot of people know someone who has undergone treatment for leukemia or cancer of some kind, and I feel like this program makes a big impact on those families as well as our families. It's a way for them to give back.”