At the gala celebration at the Altria Theater in Richmond on March 9, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society named the winner of the 2019 Virginia Students of the Year contest. Lafayette high school student Ty Hundley did not win and will be the first to tell you she didn’t even reach her desired fundraising goal.
She would also tell you none of this has changed her desire to continue helping people or made her any less proud of her efforts.
“There are 1.2 million people who have one form of blood cancer or another, and the LLS does a lot of great work on their behalf,” said Ty. “Together, all of our teams raised over $120,000, and that’s going to help a lot of people, and that was always the goal.”
Ty was the head of Team Kesem for the Cure, one of three local teams raising money for LLS as part of the Student of the Year contest. Named for the College of William and Mary’s Camp Kesem, where she spent some time when her father Vince was fighting an eventually successful battle with hairy cell leukemia six years ago and where she is training to be a counselor, Team Kesem for the Cure’s initial goal was to raise $15,000 by the end of the seven-week-contest.
As there often are in life, especially in high school, the team had setbacks along the way.
“We’d planned a dodgeball tournament at Lafayette, which as a major fundraiser had to be canceled at the last minute,” Ty said. “Time management was also an issue, between this, track team, my job and graduation prep.”
In addition, since her family’s home was damaged in Hurricane Michael last year, they have been living out of a series of hotels and apartments while repairs are being made.
By the end of the contest, Ty and Team Kesem had fallen short of that $15,000, but there is a big difference between falling short and failing.
“Last year this contest raised $78,000 for LLS, and this year it raised over $120,000,” Ty said. “I was a part of that, and prize or no prize, I call that a win.”
That determination, more than anything else, is a point of pride for her mother, Kim Hundley.
“One of the hardest things a parent has to teach their child is how to deal with difficulties or setbacks,” Hundley said. “That’s never been something Ty has struggled with, be it with the track team, her studies, her father’s battle with cancer or her efforts to raise money, this is a girl who has never given up.”
Another thing that impressed both Ty and her mother was the outpouring of support from the community and the charitable spirit in Williamsburg.
“I was impressed by how many people gave, a lot of times in memory of people they’d lost or who were battling cancer,” Hundley said. “We had two other teams here, Noah over at Jamestown, or the team from Warhill, and to have all of us manage to raise so much money for charity at the same time, it says a lot about Williamsburg as a community.”
The contest behind her, Ty says her work is only beginning. In the fall, she will be a nursing student at Virginia Commonwealth University. The Student of the Year contest was her first time working with a charity, and she plans to do more work like it as a college student. Lessons from her work with Team Kesem will help with both, she says.
“This was a learning experience. I had to reach outside of my comfort zone, meet a lot of new people, and those are skills that are going to be handy no matter what I do,” Ty said. “I learned a lot, I grew as a person, and I got to help a lot of people along the way, and what more could you ask from an experience than that?”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.