Sydney Talmi did something not many 17-year-olds could accomplish – she raised $250,000 to fight leukemia and lymphoma.

Talmi was a junior in high school when she came across a fundraising competition for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Inspired by family members who had gone through cancer, and her passion to work in the medical field, Talmi felt that fundraising for the organization was a way for her to give back.

As two 17-year-olds, the youngest people running for the title, Talmi and a friend signed up as a team and were able to raise $125,000 by contacting large corporations and independent doctors for donations. She held a lavish charity gala at the end with raffle prizes such as trips to Hawaii so participants would bid high prices on them.

Talmi, who is from Granite Bay, California, and now a freshman at Claremont McKenna College  also raised money by contacting therapists to buy ads in a pamphlet which was then compiled into a book for patients to use to reach out to experts for help. She also held fundraisers at the restaurant chain Chipotle after major sporting events at her high school and would raise close to $1,000 a night. “Chipotle was a great partner,” she said, “because the restaurant company would give 50 percent of the proceeds to the LLS foundation.”

At the end of the 10 weeks, the pair had won at the district level, but missed out at the national level. Nonetheless, the competition inspired her so much that she continued her involvement with the LLS.

“After the competition, I became a junior board member and kept fundraising for them all year long and raised a little over a total of $250,000,” Talmi said. “You’d be surprised how many people are willing to donate because so many lives have been affected by (leukemia/cancer).”

Asked why she got inspired to continue working with the LLS community, she replied, “I’m just a really competitive person.” But, she added, “the cause is amazing and the most rewarding aspect of it all, too, was also the fact that we were ultimately able to raise two research grants – because participants need to raise at least $60,000 to fund one research – and we felt like we had a big part in the fight against cancer.”

Given her competitive nature and passion to help out those affected by leukemia and lymphoma, it is no surprise that Talmi is majoring in cognitive neuroscience on the pre-med track. She is also a defender on the CMS varsity women’s soccer team.

Talmi stressed that competing with much older people was intimidating but also “really good because it drove us to work harder because we were seen as the underdog.” Other high school students can achieve that and much more, she believes. “Don’t take yourself too seriously, but don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young,” she said. “You never know what you can achieve when you follow your passion!”


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