A central Ohio organization dedicated to supporting blood cancer research and providing education and patient services to those affected by leukemia and lymphoma will kick off its annual "Man & Woman of the Year" contest this week.
This is the fifth consecutive year the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) of Central Ohio has hosted a 10-week challenge for individuals and teams to see who can raise the most money for blood cancer research, education and patient programming.
The LLS of Central Ohio's Man & Woman of the Year campaign mirrors a national LLS project that has provided nearly $1 billion for research into blood cancers over the past 20 years.
This year's campaign honors LLS Boy & Girl of the Year Evan Schroeder of Delaware, Ohio, and Lina Harris of Pickerington, who have battled blood cancer from a young age.
Their stories are available at mwoy.org/coh/localchapter/boy_girl.
Those participating in the Man & Woman of the Year campaign honor specific people in their lives who have personally fought leukemia or lymphoma, or who have provided support or medical care to people diagnosed with the diseases.
The man and woman who raise the most money during the 10-week campaign will be crowned 2014 Man & Woman of the Year, respectively.
"They do anything in their powers to raise as much money as they can from March 6 to May 11," said Cassy Allyn, campaign director for LLS of Central Ohio's Man & Woman of the Year initiative. "It's a competition and every dollar raised is akin to one vote for them.
"Nominees will host fundraisers, they can secure sponsorships and they can host, really, any kind of event. The sky is the limit with this competition and they can use all of their resources."
One person planning to do just that is Corey M. Roblee of Clintonville, who is competing for the LLS Man of the Year title in honor of his mother, Teresa Roblee, who recently retired after 34 years of work in the Division of Hematology at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center -- Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
Roblee said he and his supporting team, known as "Corey's Crusaders," can be found on Facebook under that name. They also are competing for his mother's co-workers, who have dedicated their lives to helping people with blood cancer.
"My mother's entire career was dedicated to helping people with leukemia and lymphoma," Roblee said. "I still remember as a child she would have families of patients stay at our home if they were from out of town.
"I'm competing for those people that have interacted with (patients) every day and every hour, making sure they're comfortable. That's a big part of treatment."
Roblee wants to raise a minimum of $50,000, noting last year's LLS Man of the Year raised approximately $107,000.
As senior regional director of governmental relations for the International Code Council, Roblee is well-versed in political campaigns, and he intends to use that expertise to raise funds for Corey's Crusaders.
"I'm running this like a political campaign," he said. "This is a cause I believe in. This is a cause I can't deny."
Roblee will host a campaign kick-off event featuring appetizers, drinks and a silent auction at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at The Barn, 5451 Edwards Farms Road, Dublin.
Tickets cost $30 and are available through the Corey's Crusaders Facebook page.
Roblee's sister-in-law, Kirsten Roblee, is a Corey's Crusaders member and a registered nurse in the Oncology Division at the comprehensive cancer center.
She said she's looking forward to supporting the cause.
"My unit is in charge of newly diagnosed patients," she said. "That's where we do a lot of the initial testing and they start treatment.
"Usually, the patients come in and feel fine and they're shocked, or they're really sick. Most of my role is education and giving them chemo and all the therapies that come with that."
Kirsten Roblee will host a Corey's Crusaders "Mother's Day Mash Up" to raise money for her brother-in-law's campaign from 1 to 5 p.m. March 22 at Old Bag of Nails in Upper Arlington, 2102 Tremont Center.
That event is free to attend and will feature close to 15 vendors selling Mother's Day gifts, including jewelry, clothing, gift baskets, health products and makeup. There also will be raffle drawings.
"The vendors have a fee they're paying to the fundraiser," Kirsten Roblee said. "All of the raffle items were donated by the vendors and the money for them goes to our campaign.
"About half of the vendors are donating a percentage of their sales that day to the campaign, and four or five are donating a percentage of their sales for the entire month of March."
The Man & Woman of the Year winners will be announced during the LLS of Central Ohio's Grand Finale, to be held from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. May 16 at the Hilton Columbus/ Polaris hotel.
A full list of teams and their events, as well as information about the Man & Woman of the Year campaign and how individuals can get involved, is available at mwoy.org/coh/.