Jennifer Svitak Competes to Raise Funds for Blood Cancer Research

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Jennifer Svitak, an administrative professional, wanted to do something elaborate to celebrate her ten year commitment to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) mission. After years of running marathons and raising funds for blood cancer research, she stepped it up a notch and proudly accepted the nomination of “Woman of the Year 2010”. She views her candidacy for Woman of the Year as a way to honor all the friends she has met along the way who have been affected by cancer. When she’s not fighting to cure blood cancers, Svitak enjoys traveling and running marathons with her Team in Training (TNT) family. Svitak lives by the motto, “together we can make a difference.”

Jennifer Svitak for Woman of the Year

"My involvement in this campaign proves that everyone has the ability to make a difference with drive and determination we can all help save a life"

Plymouth resident Jennifer Svitak is competing in the Minnesota chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) “Man & Woman of the Year” annual fundraising campaign. The individual man and woman who raise the most funds during the ten-week campaign will be awarded the title of Man & Woman of the Year. The campaign kicked off on March 25 and runs through June 4, 2010.

“My involvement in this campaign proves that everyone has the ability to make a difference with drive and determination we can all help save a life,” said Svitak, an administrative professional. “In addition, I wanted to celebrate my friend’s son, Mikey O'Leary, who will be celebrating 15 years of being cancer free this June.”

Mikey O’Leary was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) on May 30, 1995. Just three weeks after his third birthday. His parents brought him to the doctor's office because he was running a high fever for three days and had bruises on his legs. They were very fortunate that his pediatrician diagnosed him immediately and sent Mikey to the Minneapolis Children's Hospital where they met Dr. Maura O'Leary, his oncologist (no relation). They spent a month in the hospital while Mikey received chemotherapy. On June 27, 1995, he was declared in remission. His treatment was one year of harsh chemo followed by two years of maintenance therapy.

Over the next several weeks, Svitak hopes to raise as much money and awareness as possible towards finding a cure for blood cancers. Her efforts will consist of a letter writing campaign, soliciting silent auction items, and hosting several local fundraisers such as a derby-style event on April 29 at Kieran’s Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis and a family bowling event on May 2 at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park.

“Jennifer Svitak has a long history of supporting LLS' goal of improving the lives of blood cancer patients and their families,” said Murray Schmidt, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “Her commitment and compassion have been publicly honored at LLS’ annual volunteer recognition event, and she has been a significant force for raising the urgently needed funds that support our programs of research and patient services."

Mike still goes to the oncologist every twelve months to check his blood counts. "Every time we arrive at the clinic we see all the kids in the same place that Mikey was in so many years ago," said his mother, Holly. "It is such a poignant reminder that we need to keep fighting for a cure!"

Funds raised through the campaign will be invested by LLS in leading-edge research that investigates the causes of blood cancers and seeks better therapies. The funds will also be used to provide patients, their families and friends with blood cancer information and services to help them cope throughout their journey.

The Man & Woman of the Year will be named at the Grand Finale Gala, which will be held on Friday, June 4, 2010 at The Metropolitan. Local winners will go on to compete nationally.
Read more about Jennifer’s story or to support her efforts.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society®, headquartered in White Plains, NY, is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. The LLS mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Since its founding in 1949, LLS has invested more than $680 million in research specifically targeting leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. LLS has a local Patient Services Manager in 68 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. For additional information, please contact LLS at (800) 955-4572 or visit


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Cathy Swanson Girsch

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